USSEC Holds Board & Annual Meeting in Indianapolis
- General News
USSEC held its board and annual meeting at the JW Marriott on August 29 in Indianapolis, Indiana. USSEC board members, USSEC members, USSEC staff, and other U.S. Soy stakeholders were in attendance.
USSEC CEO Jim Sutter’s report discussed reorganization plans that were implemented in FY16 as a result of USSEC’s 2015 global climate survey. Three sub-teams were created within the organization: an accounting and finance team, an internal facing project management team, and an external facing team. “This will increase effectiveness and improve work/life balance,” Mr. Sutter stated.
USSEC membership grew by a net 14 organizations to a total of 89 over the last year.
“We tell prospective and existing members of USSEC that it is our honor to have them as members and while we appreciate the financial contribution that they make to our organization in order to be a member, we most appreciate their involvement and the opportunity their membership provides for us to represent a wider constituency of the U.S. soybean industry,” Mr. Sutter said. “I’m hopeful that the format of this annual meeting will be conducive to member interaction and networking and the GTE will help them to renew or develop new contacts with international customers of U.S. Soy.”
Mr. Sutter also detailed other internal initiatives, including developing projects for FY17 in line with USSEC’s funding sources, saying, “In line with shifting priorities from our funding sources, we have accordingly shifted the emphasis of the projects we will implement on their behalf,” along with a new reporting process for all grower leaders to provide feedback after an international mission.
External initiatives include a continued focus on sustainability and the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP)’s continued acceptance and adoption, and USSEC’s advocacy for biotech approvals in a number of markets worldwide. “There continues to be lots to do in this area and we have a good team working on this in collaboration with many partners – industry, FAS, importers, international groups such as ISGA and, of course, our founding members,” said Mr. Sutter, before concluding, “It really is a team effort.”
Mr. Sutter also promoted USSEC as a great supplier of a wide choice of soy products and said that U.S. Soy must “constantly be on the lookout for the next big market – this takes time, forethought, vision, tenacity and courage,” before elaborating on USSEC’s recent Qualified State Soybean Board (QSSB) mission to and its presence in the Asia subcontinent (ASC), home to two billion people.
Opportunities for improvement include further collaboration with like-minded organizations, learning how to effectively implement the United Soybean Board’s (USB) new long range strategic plan (LRSP) and how it fits with USSEC’s other ongoing work, continuing to work within the U.S. Soy family to minimize duplication and maximize effectiveness, and operationalizing USSEC’s new content marketing customer communication system.
The board next turned its attention to new and unfinished business. USSEC CFO Phil Macias provided an internally managed funds (IMF) project update and reported that the utilization of the food-related IMF funding was approved at the February 2016 board meeting.
Mr. Macias also ran through the IMF process and procedures, describing IMF projects as unique opportunities that are not necessarily funded by traditional sources.
Current IMF special projects include the USSEC stakeholder relations coordinator position, advanced soy protein, and Cuba.
USSEC consultant Serge Traylor gave an update on the Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) project, describing USSEC as a “communications organization.” He explained how CRM helps the organization to segment its audiences and boost its communications efforts, saying that CRM will help USSEC to get credit for being thought leaders in an environment where its competition will continue to improve.
Ultimately, CRM will help USSEC to engage more deeply with its customers, staying at the top of the customer’s mind; augment its existing relationships; connect with new customers; and drive a preference for U.S. Soy.
Linda Snell, senior consultant at LBL Strategies, reviewed the board’s self-assessment survey, which helped board members identify gaps between expected and actual performance and develop a shared understanding. The self-assessment also helps board members by providing context, to follow best practices, talks about things to celebrate, shows performance at a glance and how to move forward.
The board next heard reports from the executive, audit and budget, and governance committees.
USSEC director Brandon Bickham provided an update on member and industry relations, reporting that USSEC currently has 89 members, with 14 members added during FY16.
The board also approved its 90th member, U.S. Nisshin Shokai, and moved to extend the position of stakeholder relations coordinator before moving into executive session.
Retiring chairman Laura Foell opened the annual meeting, paraphrasing legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi, “We have an individual commitment to this team effort.” She pointed to USSEC’s individual and team efforts, saying they “make USSEC work.”
Ms. Foell referred to USSEC as a “world class organization,” whose name is becoming more widely known as its FAS rating has risen to highly effective and its membership has continued to grow.
She also recounted how working with the U.S. Soy industry over the past ten years has provided her with life-changing experiences, pointing to trips to Africa and India as particularly moving. “You find out what’s really important,” she stated. “It’s important to have food.”
Chairman Foell paraphrased carmaker Henry Ford in closing, “In 2005, we came together. That’s a beginning. We stayed together – that’s progress. Working together is a success.”
Mr. Sutter then announced retiring officers, praising their years of service and hard work, saying they had proved the adage “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”
John Cassidy of Perdue Grain & Oilseed stepped down from the board, together with USB director Bob Metz of South Dakota, American Soybean (ASA) director Ron Moore of Illinois, and USB director Ms. Foell of Iowa.
The seating of new board members followed, with Todd Gibson of Missouri and Doug Winter of Illinois taking the available USB seats and Monte Peterson of North Dakota assuming the open ASA seat. Chris Arnold of the Scoular Company stepped into the available export position.
Jim Miller was elected chairman and Derek Haigwood was elected vice chairman. Sharon Covert was reelected as secretary and James Traub was elected as treasurer.
It was also announced that the USSEC – Americas region had won a communications award for its ongoing public relations program, “Soya es Salud” (Soy is Health). Regional Representative – Americas Francisco de la Torre and Regional Marketing Director – Americas Nayeli Vilanova detailed how the Americas team has worked using communications, branding, and the promotion of U.S. Soy via media to reach approximately 30 million customers in the past 3 to 4 months.
A member appreciation session was conducted after the meeting, and a board reception and board dinner followed that evening.