Pro Farmer Editors
An investigation and financial audit of the National Soybean Checkoff Program has been asked for by the Board of Directors of the American Soybean Association (ASA). The group voted unanimously to make the request that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) look into allegations.
The ASA petition was to be filed today with USDA Secretary Ed Schafer and the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Specifically, it calls for an investigation of the United Soybean Board (USB) and the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) to ensure that soybean checkoff dollars are being managed and invested as prescribed by law.
"Serious ethical, legal, and financial allegations have been raised about how farmer checkoff funds and program activities are being conducted," said ASA President John Hoffman, a soybean producer from Waterloo, Iowa. "These significant allegations have caused ASA to ask the Inspector General to conduct an investigation and audit so that the basis of the allegations can be impartially investigated to find the truth."
Allegations include the improper and wasteful expenditure of both checkoff and federal funds; potential evasion of mandated salary and administrative spending caps by USB; conflicts of interests at USB; use of checkoff funds for prohibited purposes by USB; and wasteful and excessive spending by USB. There are additional allegations concerning improper USB oversight and tolerance of actions that have taken place at the USSEC, an entity created by USB and ASA in October 2005. These allegations include improper conduct by a USSEC employee at USSEC functions; the firing of whistleblowers; improper employee relationships; contracting violations; management malfeasance and the inability of ASA Directors serving on USSEC Board to obtain an independent and objective investigation of the allegations.
"With USB and USSEC, we are dealing with entities that are spending tens of millions per year in soybean farmer checkoff dollars and U.S. taxpayer funds," Hoffman said. "As the policy organization that represents U.S. soybean farmers, it is ASA's responsibility to ensure that the soybean checkoff, and other entities the checkoff has created, are operating in an accountable and transparent manner in the best interest of soybean farmers."
Further, Hoffman said, "ASA and its members believe that since federal taxpayer funds or the federally mandated checkoff funds comprise all of the operations of USB and USSEC, we are compelled to petition for an OIG investigation to ensure these allegations are examined in an unbiased and fair way, something that ASA has tried to do within the framework of USB and USSEC, but has been thwarted in so doing by USB Directors and their attorneys," Hoffman charged. "ASA firmly believes it is doing the right thing for the soybean farmers by asking the Inspector General to conduct a full investigation of the serious allegations of wrongdoing that have surfaced."
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