Western Region Soybean Board

New Soy Checkoff CEO visits the Western Region

May 23, 2024

Rachel Gabel
Rachel Gabel  


The newly minted CEO of the United Soybean Board, Lucas Lentsch, spent time last week on a Rod Hahn’s Yuma County, Colorado, farm. The Soy Checkoff CEO since the first of the year, Lentsch has been visiting soybean farming operations across the nation and engaging growers in conversations to understand grower priorities to grow soy demand through the checkoff.

Hahn has been growing soybeans for 28 years — along with corn, wheat and forage sorghum — on about 1,800 acres. Hahn is the Western Region representative on the National Soy Checkoff. The Western Region encompasses 13 states and while it isn’t the soybean belt of the nation, Hahn said if there is to be increases in the numbers of soybean acres, it will be in his region.

Rod Hahn with his wife, Lila, daughter Karianne Donnelson, and Soybean Checkoff CEO Lucas Lentsch in Yuma County on Hahn’s farm. Photo courtesy Lucas Lentsch

Hahn said his area is comprised of primarily corn acres under continuous irrigation, and research about soil health suggests including soybeans in a rotation can be of great benefit. Hastings, Neb., is currently the closest crush plant, though there are rumblings about another plant opening that will be closer.

“What helped was when the livestock population of Yuma County got big enough that the (soybean) meal was brought back in from Hastings and they took the beans there to be crushed,” Hahn said. “That just happened eight or 10 years ago so trying to get the market is a big deal now.”


Hahn’s furthest west soybean field is near Otis and he’s unaware of any soybean fields west of that one, but he anticipates an increase in soybean acres as the benefits of soybeans for soil health become more widely known. Hahn said the weed and pest problems that plague soybean crops further east, don’t pose a problem in Colorado’s arid climate.

“In 28 years of growing soybeans, I’ve had the insects one time,” he said. “As far as diseases, we don’t have them because many of them are humidity oriented. Back east where you have 50% and 60% humidity all the time, tar spot and white mold happen regularly. I’ve had white mold out here one year and I shut the sprinklers off, we had a 98-degree day with 12% humidity, and my white mold was gone.”

The average U.S. soybean yield, Hahn said, is 47 bushels per acre though in his experience, he has always been above that with his best yield being 78 bushels, and his worst at 52 bushels per acre. Combined with a bit of fertilizer, water, and herbicides for the weeds that compete with the beans, he said his input cost is significantly lower than for eastern growers who have to combat pests and diseases. It is, he said, a unique situation that’s right for soybeans under irrigation.

Rod Hahn and his grandson Kody Donnelson during Lentsch’s visit. Photo courtesy Lucas Lentsch.

Lentsch grew up in Veblen, S.D., on his family’s farm. As an executive vice president at DMI, Lentsch liaised between national and local checkoff organizations, nationwide. He previously served as CEO at Midwest Dairy. Lentsch was the South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture from 2013 to 2016 and is a proud veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving as a commanding officer with the Army National Guard. Lentsch holds a master of business administration from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management, and a bachelor of science in agriculture from South Dakota State University.

He said the innovation demonstrated by soy farmers has been inspiring.

“There are over half a million soybean growers across the county,” he said. “It’s a privilege to work for that much of American agriculture.”

He said soy foods, of course, have their place in the market but it is truly feeding the animal agriculture side of the industry, being widely used as a feed ingredient for livestock and aquaculture operations.


On Hahn’s operation, the crop operation was complemented by the growth of a cow-calf operation spearheaded by his daughter who recently came home to the farm. He said he grows soybeans in a rotation every two years.

“I’ve noticed an improvement in corn yield after the soybeans,” he said. “After the soybeans, we put in wheat for a year and then put hay in on the wheat stubble. We get three crops in two years and we have enough water for that here and that really helps the bottom line of our farming operation.”

He said the soil health has benefited from this rotation, ridding the fields of the weeds common to corn and soybeans and away from corn root worm.

“The nitrogen fixing aspect of the soybeans, that delivers nitrogen to the corn crop and adds weight to the bushels and a big increase in corn yield because of that,” he said.

As president of the Corn Promotion Council last year, he was part of efforts to compile research on soil health and that remains top of mind for him now as a representative of the soybean industry, working to get good information about soil health in the hands of Colorado farmers.

Lentsch said understanding the innovation and technology behind the crops being grown is key for producers making decisions about crop rotations and growers are benefiting from the research invested in soybean seeds.

“Its ability to grow and do well in drought situations is pretty incredible,” he said. “The global demand for soybeans is ever increasing and the markets and what we can do with it domestically are phenomenal. You take a soybean, you crush it, you extract the oil, you feed the meal, 97% of that meal goes into the animal feed supply and a small percentage goes into human nutrition. There are high quality ingredients that come out of it, that oil goes into biodiesel blends to drop into replacements for renewable diesel and now is even in the conversation around sustainable aviation fuel.”

He said soybeans are being used everywhere, and it’s that kind of diversity that speaks volumes for opportunity.