Thornton Joins U.S. Soybean Export Council

Mace Thornton is vice president of communications and marketing for the United Soybean Board and U.S. Soybean Export Council.

“As I transition to enter the autumn of my career, the timing probably could have been better,” Thornton said. “Here I was, leading the strategic communications shop for one of the most influential agricultural organizations, and I was entertaining the possibility of leaving the career-goal job I had worked for 34 years to achieve.

“As many of you who attended this year’s NAFB Trade Talk event in Kansas City know, after many years of lining up interviews and doing a few on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation, this year I was in a booth an aisle away doing the same thing for the United Soybean Board and U.S. Soybean Export Council.”

How did this happen?

“Honestly, it was a combination of many factors, but the numbers strongly suggested it was a good time to start looking. And since I knew I was not ready to hang it up, at a time when I feel in the prime of my career, I decided to dip a toe into the water. Given my former post, any new job would certainly have to clear a pretty high bar, not the least being a blessing from my partner in life, my wife, Denise. I wanted to lead a communications team for an agricultural entity at the national level. Nothing else would suffice. So, I updated my LinkedIn profile. Just weeks later, my network came through. There was a bright light on the horizon with the United Soybean Board, the group charged with administering the soybean checkoff program, and the U.S. Soybean Export Council, the group that builds preference for U.S. soy in international markets. For the first time, the two groups were putting into place a joint internal communications and marketing team to boost efficiency and effectiveness.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of great work from the soybean checkoff and was impressed by the empowering farmer leadership of the organization’s new CEO, Polly Ruhland. Even though it was late in the process to build that new team, Polly assured me it was not too late. To make a short story even more of a whirlwind, it was a perfect match; an opportunity to work with a transformational leader at a national ag organization that could benefit from my experience. Just weeks later, I accepted the job. I had found my new zenith. Of course, my willingness to be open to new opportunities and tools, as well as my seasoned understanding of the field of strategic agricultural communications, made all this possible. And I drew from my well of experience beginning on day one at my new job.

“I wanted to lock in with NAFB the same type of relationship that had been achieved over the years at my previous organization. That would include a news service agreement and other tangible efforts because part of this new job is communicating back to soybean farmers about how they are benefitting from their checkoff investments. Nobody helps make that connection like farm broadcasters.

“So, here I am, feeling truly fortunate that all of this worked out, and I am very blessed to now be leading my second national agricultural communications team. Along with the other members of the USB/USSEC communications and marketing team – Lisa Humphreys, George Harper, and Paul Murphy-Spooner – I look forward to working with all of you to help share U.S. Soy’s story. Some days it still feels a bit surreal. The transition and move are pretty much done. There may be boxes left to unpack in the new home, but I realize that after months of transition between Missouri and Virginia, my life now represents the juxtaposition of a sad country song that George Jones could never imagine: I got my dog back, my pickup truck back, and my wife back. I have a new job that I love, working for farmers, and I could not be happier.”

Pictured together, left to right, are Sam Knipp (American Farmers & Ranchers, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) and Thornton at the 2019 NAFB Trade Talk. Thornton and Knipp are NAFB Allied Industry Council members.