Shirley farmer Matt Hughes comes on board at the Illinois Soybean Association during a transition period. With the hiring of new CEO, Craig Ratajczyk, the organization is undergoing a bit of renovation.
One of the big changes was a simplification of ISA's committee structure. Previously, four committees (supply, demand, information/education and public affairs) guided the group's interests. Today, ISA has only two committees. One deals with production; the other focuses on marketing.
Hughes says the simplified format is allowing ISA to be more focused on the issues without getting hung up in the administrative details.
Perhaps even more important are 13 specific, defined target areas that are at the core of ISA's agenda. At the top of this list is animal agriculture.
"One of the goals is to get animal ag and our group on the same page when it comes to moving the industry forward," Hughes notes. "They're our number one customer. It makes sense for us to work together on future issues."
One of those issues is educating Illinois farmers on the importance of keeping a healthy livestock industry within the state's borders. Hughes hears a lot of folks talk about the healthy number of soybean exports in recent years. He says what folks do not realize is this just means more livestock production is leaving the country and going elsewhere.
"We're working to get local farmers to realize how important it is to keep livestock production in Illinois," he adds.
Back to farming
Interestingly enough, Hughes almost didn't come back to the farm. After growing up on a farm near Litchfield, Hughes obtained a bachelors and masters degree at the University of Illinois. He also met Connie Schneider at U of I.
Upon graduation, Hughes moved to St. Louis to work for Doane Advisory Services. Shortly after moving across the border, he and Connie married. Eventually the two returned to central Illinois, when Matt took a job at Growmark.
Moving to McLean County also allowed he and Connie to help out on her father Terry's farm in Shirley. When Terry retired in 1997, farming became Matt and Connie's full time job.
"It wasn't a planned path, but it just kind of worked out that way," Matt notes.
The farm is almost all no-till. And, unlike many in central Illinois, the Hughes are still firm believers in crop rotation.
"We have a traditional 50/50 rotation with corn and soybeans," Matt notes. "I think it will really help us this year. A lot of folks have taken a significant yield hit on continuous corn."
The Hughes corn crop is fairly conventional. About 75% of the soybean crop is contracted seed production for Pioneer. The other 25% are a non-GMO variety.
The Hughes have two children: Thad, 14 and Marissa, 9.