Illinois Calls for Soy Cooperation

February 24, 2009 06:00 PM

Greg Vincent,
Editor, Top Producer

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) has passed a resolution it will present this week at the American Soybean Association's (ASA) annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas. The resolution calls for the ASA and the United Soybean Board (USB) to stay in their own corners and learn to get along. If this doesn't happen, ISA is prepared to push for significant changes in both organizations.

The resolution was sent to both organizations, along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; USDA's Ag Marketing Service, which administers the checkoff program; and USDA's Foreign Ag Service, which manages overseas marketing efforts and contracts with ASA for its USSEC contributions. If the resolution doesn't produce results, ISA Chairman David Hartke says, the state association is prepared to push for changes that will likely involve more cooperation, potentially a joint staff and perhaps a merger of the two organizations.

Merging organizations?
"We are not prepared to do anything this week,” Hartke says. "Our motivation is that when the audit is complete, we expect these two groups to sit down and work through the problems. I really hope we can be level-headed individuals to make this a better relationship between the two groups and remember they are both working out here for the guy raising soybeans.

"They have committees that mirror each other. Why don't we have them meeting in the same place, same time, and actually in the same room, even? That way, one side knows what the other side is doing.

"Take Illinois as an example. We had two boards until three or four years ago. We had two boards and merged them into one. Now all of the board members of Illinois work for the soybean farmers of Illinois, both in policy and checkoff.”

Not the "I” states
Iowa has the same organization as Illinois and both states have been held up as examples of how a new structure could work for a combined ASA/USB. In fact, these discussions have led to rumors that those two states are behind the audit request and ultimately want to see USB disbanded. Iowa's Executive Director Kirk Leeds has heard these rumors and is quick to discount them.

"The board has been very public and issued a couple of different statements, including a resolution that was passed confirming ASA as a policy organization,” Leeds says. "It says very succinctly, ‘We reaffirm our support of ASA as the national policy organization and USB as the checkoff organization.' That was in response to the invitation we received from Missouri and Minnesota soybean organizations regarding the USSF. We didn't respond directly to that, but we basically disagree with it and asserted our support.”

Hartke's reaction was similar: "I did not have any inkling that they were going to ask for an investigation. If somebody thinks that Illinois was the push behind this, I can tell you the chairperson from Illinois didn't know anything about it. I did not know they were going to ask for a full-blown audit of USB.”

The Illinois resolution reads as follows:

"The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) Board of Directors recognizes the American Soybean Association as the sole national policy representative for the American soybean farmer and continues our support for the national checkoff and the United Soybean Board. Although each has a separate function and separate regulatory oversight, we expect both of these national organizations to work together harmoniously. If these two national boards are not willing or are unable to work together, we will work diligently to implement whatever changes are necessary to assure that we have programs that will address the needs and issues that affect soybean farmers' productivity and profitability."

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