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Corn+Soybean Digest

ASA Chief Focuses On Bottom Line

He somewhat facetiously describes himself as having "milk on my lips and straw in my hair."

But Mike Yost, newly elected president of the American Soybean Association (ASA), is no hick farmer.

His initial career move, straight out of college, wasn't back to the farm. Although he's the fourth-generation Yost to farm land near Murdock, MN, he first traded grain at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.

He brings grain trading contacts, 20 years of experience growing corn and soybeans, a quick intelligence and a sharp wit to his presidency.

The six-plus years he enjoyed city life, watching Twins and Gophers games and skiing, for example, were well spent. It was there that he made a date with Sandra, a former Iowa farm girl.

In 1979, less than a year after they married, the Yosts packed up and headed toward the family farm to grow corn and soybeans.

Why did he move from trading grain to growing it?

"I think it was more like, why did I trade grain?" he reminisces. "I always intended to come back to the farm. I just decided I would try something else for a few years because I knew once I started farming, I would be farming forever."

So far, forever is nearly 20 years of working closely with his dad, Bill, managing a 2,500-acre corn-soybean corporation. His teenage sons, Michael and David, are now part of the corporation as well.

It was all inadvertent preparation for one of his major goals for ASA.

"We're trying to interact as partners with other facets of this industry," Yost explains.

"We've worked closely with the United Soybean Board and our state associations and have developed good working relationships with them.

"We're also working with the industry: the soybean crushers and the input people supplying seed and pesticides."

Working closely but not exclusively is Yost's philosophy. He's big on delegating duties,whether it's attending a meeting in Minneapolis or going on an exciting foreign tour.

"We've got a nine-person executive committee, including myself. All are capable of representing us on a great many issues," Yost says.

That'll give the new president time to concentrate on what's important: informing members.

"We need to involve our membership more in public policy and international market promotion. We've got to organize our lobbying efforts a little better and push our objectives and goals even harder than in the past."

His biggest challenge, Yost predicts, will be dealing with the Asian economic crisis and its adverse impact on soybean demand.

"We'll work hard to develop a policy to help alleviate that. A trade association involved with trade policy is one of the main goals of ASA, because we export every other row of soybeans.

"There are no other major commodities that depend on exports as much."

Yost admits that being an ASA official means sacrifices by himself and his family. And he's not in it for the glory, just the money.

"It's basically because we raise so many soybeans on our farm. I know that the work we do in promoting soybeans around the globe can affect our bottom line. That's why I'm in it for the money - that's the money I'm talking about."

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