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Production Journal

January 31, 2009
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor
 
 


Soybean Family's Dirty Laundry

As the two national soybean organizations continue to quibble over allegations of checkoff fund abuse and misuse, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has ruled it will investigate the allegations made by the American Soybean Association (ASA). Meanwhile, a new soybean grower organization has formed with the mission of supporting the checkoff and replacing ASA as the soybean growers' voice in Washington, D.C.

This soybean family dispute, which dates back to the inception of the national soybean checkoff, seems to be taking on a life of its own.

In December, ASA filed a request with OIG to audit the United Soybean Board (USB) and the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) for what ASA termed "serious allegations of abuse, wasteful spending, and mismanagement” by the checkoff-funded USB.

In announcing OIG's decision to conduct the audit, ASA president Johnny Dodson of Halls, Tenn., said, "Ignoring serious allegations of abuse or sweeping them under the rug would have been wrong and would have done a disservice to all soybean farmers paying the checkoff.”

USB says it welcomes the audit and has nothing to hide. USSEC, a joint project between ASA, USB and industry representatives, and which is the focus of many ASA complaints, says the same thing. USB contends it is well within the specifications of the checkoff act, conducts its own regular audits and that every USB project must be approved by USDA.

Now a group of soybean farmers disgruntled with ASA and its actions has formed. In January, the creation of the U.S. Soybean Federation (USSF) was announced. During the
announcement of the organization, USSF president Lance Peterson pointed directly to the call for an audit by ASA.

"It's clear to us that ASA's continuing actions are not in the best interest of soybean farmers, as ASA is jeopardizing the national soybean checkoff,” Peterson said. "We need both a strong checkoff organization and a strong policy and advocacy organization that can work independently but cooperatively. USSF stands in total support of the current national soybean checkoff and the farmer–leaders appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to oversee checkoff investments.”

ASA volleyed, calling the move "radical and ill-conceived.” At this point, no one is sure exactly what will happen with the situation.



More Crop for the Drop

Corn that sips water is no longer just a pipe dream. Moving on the fast track, Monsanto Company has taken a major step toward launching the world's first drought-tolerant corn product.

Steve Padgette, biotechnology lead for Monsanto, says drought-tolerant corn advanced from Phase 3 to Phase 4 of the company's research and development pipeline in one year—a record in product development. Regulatory clearances could take an additional two to three years. Monsanto hopes for commercial launch in 2012.

As the world's population grows and weather patterns change, water is expected to be a limiting factor in the ability to grow food. Anyone who pumps irrigation water now already knows the drill.

Drought-tolerant corn is designed to provide yield stability during periods when water supply is scarce by mitigating the effects of drought—or water stress within a corn plant.

Monsanto field trials conducted last year in the Western Great Plains met or exceeded 6% to 10% target yield enhancement—about 7 bu. to 10 bu. more than the average 70 bu. to 130 bu. yield in several of the key drought-prone areas of the U.S.

Steve Padgette, biotechnology lead for Monsanto, says drought-tolerant corn advanced from Phase 3 to Phase 4 of the company's research and development pipeline in one year—a record in product development. Regulatory clearances could take an additional two to three years. Monsanto hopes for commercial launch in 2012.



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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - February 2009

 
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