In his year of service as the United Soybean Board (USB) chairman, John Motter of Hancock County has enjoyed many incredible experiences in his travels around the world representing the nation’s soybean growers.
One of his fondest memories of the year took place fairly recently. During the beautiful stretch of October weather for harvesting in the combine cab back home, Motter donned a suit and tie for the 2017 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.
The event recognized the winner of the 2017 World Food Prize and brought together international leaders, farmers, agribusiness executives, non-governmental organizations, and development experts to address the most critical issues facing global food security.
“My No. 1 favorite was the World Food Prize event. Norman Borlaug’s granddaughter was there and we had people from six continents and 55 countries and 50 different languages all working to reduce starvation and to make real differences in people’s lives,” Motter said. “It was during harvest, so there were not many farmers there, but it was an incredible experience.”
Another highlight for Motter was seeing years of research come to fruition in the form of an improved product and a new market for soybeans.
“The Goodyear announcement at the Farm Progress Show in August was special. After six years of research we now have soybean oil in the tread of a tire,” Motter said. “WeatherReady tires are now available for 77% of the passenger vehicles in North America and they outperform the tires on your car today. Soybean oil helps with the performance.”
The tires feature a soy-based rubber compound, bringing forward yet another market opportunity for soybean oil and, in return, a profit opportunity for soybean farmers. The announcement of the all-season, innovative line of tires was made possible in part by the soy checkoff.
“Goodyear and the soy checkoff share something special: a commitment to innovation,” Motter said. “When we started working with them more than six years ago, it was just an idea, a way to build demand for soybean oil. Now, we have a tire that shows what soy can do on the road.”
Goodyear’s interest in soybean oil included a look at sustainability, a priority for many corporations throughout the United States. But, along with increased sustainability, they also found competitive advantage. Rubber compounds made with soybean oil remain soft at lower temperatures, leading to enhanced traction in dry, wet and winter conditions.
“As we develop great products that anticipate and respond to the needs of consumers, soybean oil was one of the technologies enabling us to meet a challenging performance goal,” said Eric Mizner, Goodyear’s director of global material science.
Improving products and creating new soy markets fit right in with the goals of the USB.
“Businesses looking to use soy, even if for sustainable purposes, want to see not only a price-competitive product, but one that functions the same or better than their original product,” Motter said. “That’s why the checkoff works with companies such as Goodyear to test soybean oil and confirm its characteristics, so we can increase demand for our product and ultimately increase our profit opportunities.”
Goodyear’s Assurance WeatherReady tire is now offered in a wide range of sizes for cars, minivans and SUVs on the road today.
Motter has gotten to learn about agriculture in Australia, meet global food industry leaders, and get the behind-the-scenes perspective of the incredible innovation taking place with soy products. But, as it is with most things, the experiences of the last year have been incredible for Motter not just in terms of the places he has been, but also with the relationships he has developed.
“What I have gotten as chairman that I wouldn’t have at another position is the industry connections,” Motter said. “We see bunches of different people and contacts and build relationships. I have a whole book of business cards. I have tried to keep track of who I met and the circumstances I got to know them.”