When the American Soybean Association (ASA) preaches that the livestock industry is a top priority on its agenda, that message hits home for Neal Bredehoeft, Alma, MO.

With a 5,000-head hog finishing operation, Bredehoeft epitomizes the farmer ASA is working to support. In fact, much of the 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans he raises are fed back to his hogs. Couple those two farming enterprises and he's perfectly positioned to take the helm as president of ASA.

“As a hog farmer, I sure know the livestock issues facing us,” Bredehoeft says. “And I know we have to support livestock producers or we'll lose a big chunk of our customer base.”

Keeping livestock in the U.S. is a huge issue for ASA and the National Corn Growers Association. The worry, of course, is that if the crop sector doesn't support livestock producers, there's a risk those animals could find a new home on foreign soil, likely South America.

“We can lend support to that industry by lobbying in Washington. That's one of our biggest strengths,” Bredehoeft says. “Already, we're meeting with the livestock industry about how to help.”

As new president of the 25,000-member organization, Bredehoeft says he's committed to securing research dollars, especially from state and federal sources. “We need more dollars, for example, to help develop a soybean rust resistant bean,” he says. “And we need to get the soybean genome mapped.”

When it comes to foreign rivals, Bredehoeft is convinced Brazil will be the commodity producer of the future. That means American farmers need to differentiate their soybean crops and give consumers what they want, he says, and it takes research dollars to develop those new beans.

“We really need to go after dollars to see what traits to put into soybeans, like high oil, high protein and omega 3,” he says. “We want to promote the Qualisoy initiative and breed a better bean.

“We have to stay competitive with South America,” Bredehoeft says. “I was surprised when I visited Brazil last year and found they spend a lot of money on research — and it's farmer dollars, not government funding.”

Keeping trade open with other countries is also a key issue he'll champion this year. “Since half our crop is exported, we have to stay up-to-date and involved in all negotiations. We need access to markets,” he says.

Adding value to soybeans is another issue on Bredehoeft's agenda. “Our job at ASA is to go beyond profitability and make sure we get added-value back to our farmers. Supporting biodiesel legislation is just one of those areas,” he says.

In his quiet, patient manner, Bredehoeft hopes to do everything he can to help all of agriculture pull together. “If we don't, we'll have less influence all the time, especially since there are fewer and fewer of us (farmers). That's a big reason why I believe so strongly in associations. If you're a soybean farmer today — regardless of size — you should absolutely be an association member,” he says.

“Neal is one of those guys who takes his time making decisions, but he always gets it right,” says Ron Heck, immediate past ASA president. “He carefully considers the issues, builds consensus and then makes the right decision. He's a membership and policy guy who pays attention to the grassroots.”

Back on the farm, Bredehoeft says he gets plenty of help. “Besides my wife, Kathy, I have two brothers, Gene and Clark, and my dad, Harvey, as partners. Without their support, you wouldn't see me here.”