Illinois soybean researchers adjust following funding cuts

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CARBONDALE, Ill. – Illinois soybean researchers are struggling to continue with their work after a board’s decision to invest in areas other than research where the board believes they’ll have a larger impact.

The Illinois Soybean Association is focusing on opening new foreign markets to soybeans and advocating for infrastructure improvements, The Southern Illinoisan reported.
Soybean farmers across the country contribute 0.5 percent of their crop sales to research. The funds are split between state, regional and national soybean boards, which then distribute the funds. The Illinois Soybean Association’s board, which is comprised of 24 elected farmers, allocated about $12 million last year.

The association spent 41 percent of its 2017-2018 budget on promoting Illinois soybeans, 24 percent to helping farmers adopt new technology to improve yields and sustainability, 17 percent to improving transportation efficiency and 16 percent to outreach to corporate groups and Illinois farmers.

The association believes private industry donors, chemical and seed companies and the national United Soybean Board have a larger impact on research, according to Lynn Rohrscheib, the association’s chairwoman.

The funding cuts have forced researchers to seek funding elsewhere and adapt their research approach, said Jason Bond, a plant pathology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“Today, I’m a better researcher for it,” Bond sai.

Bond said his team adjusted their research project to pursue funding from the North Central Soybean Research Program and the United Soybean Board.

“You need to have research that’s important to the Illinois grower, and to the wider region,” Bond said. “We looked at projects that could get other universities involved, and we built teams across states. That was a result of the ISA choosing to put resources in other areas.

SIU Carbondale Professor Stella Kantartzi said she started off with about $170,000 of funding from the association, which has now completely been cut off.

“I felt that I was fully supported by ISA, and I needed that support and the yearly communication with the farmers,” Kantartzi said, to continue her work. “Now, we feel pretty isolated.”

Kantartzi said the decrease in communication means stakeholders don’t know what researchers can do and researchers don’t get as much feedback on their work.

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