Executive Profile: John Lumpe, CEO, Illinois Soybean Association
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Oilseed & Grain News Media
In February of this year, the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), which represents more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois, the top soybean-producing state in the U.S., welcomed a new CEO: John Lumpe.
Lumpe is tasked with continuing ISA’s commitment to achieve maximum profitability and global competitive positioning of soy for the state of Illinois. He is responsible for leading the state’s soybean checkoff and non-checkoff programs. As for success measurement, Lumpe has said he would look at Return on Mission, noting that “ISA’s mission is to uphold the interests of Illinois soybean producers through promotion, advocacy, and education. We will measure the ROI of a project against our mission.”
A long-time veteran of the soybean industry – he was with the Ohio Soybean Council and Ohio Soybean Association for more than 15 years – Lumpe wasted no time before he announced his 90-day plan for the organization. He was excited to hit the ground running and lead ISA checkoff and membership programs to new heights.
For its part, the Illinois Soybean Association has been a strong supporter of the agribusiness events hosted by HighQuest Group, such as the former Oilseed & Grain Trade Summit, the current Organic & Non-GMO Forum, and Global AgInvesting. We, at the Oilseed & Grain News, welcome Lumpe as CEO and look forward to working further with him and the ISA. We were glad to hear from him about his first year in his new position and what’s to come for ISA.
1. You were named CEO just before the pandemic hit. How has it been navigating a new position and working towards your goals in this anything-but-normal year?
The pandemic hit less than 30 days into my role as the new ISA CEO, reminding us all that there are things you can plan for, and things you can’t. But what I’ve witnessed in the Illinois agriculture community over the last several months is a new level of partnership and service to our constituents and the industries we are proud to serve. We’ve banded together and supported our producers when times got tough.
2. When you first started as CEO, you tagged yourself as a collaborator – focusing on trying to bring it back to the growers to retrench and regroup – what type of progress has been made on these goals during your 10 months on the job?
In my time here thus far, ISA has jumped into multiple collaborations across Illinois agriculture. One of which was contributing to the Illinois Pork Producers Association’s (IPPA) Pork Power program in donating ground pork to food banks across the state. Another example of collaboration was when ISA teamed up with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board to distribute more than 4,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to ag retailers and equipment dealers throughout the state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I committed to the ISA board on delivering a first 90-day plan, which included items like meeting all 24 board members face-to-face or via Zoom and FaceTime. and taking a look under the hood of the organization and providing a fresh, outside perspective. I knew I wanted to come in focused on building relationships and fostering collaboration from day one. I’m happy to report that we are now well on our way with some strengthened relationships and renewed enthusiasm for our collaborative work in the Illinois ag industry, particularly with our counterparts at the Corn, Beef, Pork and Farm Bureau organizations.
3. You have introduced a new strategic plan – can you please explain how this effects key issues in the organization, such as the soybean premiums program where differentiated soybeans are giving farmers more revenue without having to expand acres?
The goal of the soybean premiums program is to bring farmers more revenue per bushel than traditional commodity soybeans, and soybean growers in Illinois are more competitive in the marketplace when they grow high quality, differentiated soybeans. Soybean Premiums is the perfect example of just one of our programs that align with our mission to uphold the interests of Illinois soybean producers through promotion, advocacy, and education. Through the soybeanpremiums.org website, interested farmers have the ability to search for premium opportunities that are available and seem like a good fit for their farming operation, and are then able to contact the company to get more information or proceed with a contract.
4. Why does the checkoff fund soybeanpremiums.org and what does it seek to do?
Farmers can make more money on their soybean acres by seeking out premium programs for specialty soybeans. The Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program funds soybeanpremiums.org to connect farmers with specialty soybean buyers in their area. It provides growers an opportunity to plan for their growing season to assure a better price for their soybeans. Some of the more common soybean premium programs tend to be for non-GMO food grade soybeans, high oleic soybeans, and soybeans for seed. Farmers and buyers across the country can use the website, it’s not Illinois specific. Soybeanpremiums.org is always looking for new programs to post and it’s completely free.
5. Why do you think food grade soybeans are a sweet spot?
Plant-based foods are one of the fastest growing food sectors today and it’s only going to grow. For example, consumers are increasingly trying almond or soy milk alternatives to dairy. Asian markets in particular are looking to expand soyfoods and ingredients, and while many soyfoods can be produced from commodity soybeans, it’s reported that foods taste better and fulfill specific food property demands when they are manufactured from food grade varieties grown, harvested, and shipped separately from commodity soybeans.
While production practices for food grade and standard soybeans are similar, farmers should choose a contract that complements their on-farm capabilities. The food grade market is not for all farmers, but it does offer a sweet spot for others.
6. When you look ahead to the future of the soybean industry, what’s most exciting to you?
Global demand for soybeans continues to soar, and exports remain strong. Maintaining those export opportunities and encouraging new, emerging markets for soybeans will be central to the work we do at ISA, and our Soybean Premiums program and our support for the U.S. Soybean Export Council in the Egypt marketplace are both great examples of that. We are also really excited about the opportunities that exist with utilization and new use projects for our crops. It’s an exciting time to be working in the soybean industry and promoting the uses of our tremendously versatile crop.
ABOUT JOHN LUMPE
John Lumpe joined the Illinois Soybean Association as CEO in February 2020, bringing with him more than 30 years of experience in association management, public relations, strategic thinking, communication and market development.
Lumpe previously was senior vice president of FLM Harvest where he provided strategic leadership to the organization and specifically checkoff/association clients and trade associations. Prior to that, he held the position of executive director of the Ohio Soybean Association, Ohio Soybean Council and the Ohio Soybean Council Foundation.
Lumpe is a graduate of Walsh College with a bachelor’s in communications and journalism.
~ Michelle Pelletier Marshall is managing editor for HighQuest Group's Global AgInvesting's GAI Gazette magazine and its WIA Today blog, as well as a contributor to GAI News and the Oilseed & Grain News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.