via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
Situation could bring focus on other checkoff
programs; USB issues strong response
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to reflect response from USB
The decision by the American Soybean
Association's (ASA) board to unanimously request an investigation and
financial audit of the National Soybean Checkoff Program could be a key
development for these programs in general. The ASA petition was
delivered to USDA Secretary Ed Schafer today, and asks for the
investigation to be conducted by USDA's Office of the Inspector General
According to a release from ASA, 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.
"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."
Here's a link
to read more.
The USB issued the following response to
ASA's call for a checkoff program Investigation:
"The allegations made by the American Soybean Association
against the United Soybean Board (USB) regarding mismanagement of farmer
checkoff dollars are categorically untrue. Today, U.S. soybean farmers
enjoy record demand both here and abroad for their soybeans, through
the fiscally responsible efforts of the farmers who serve voluntarily
on USB. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) deems it necessary,
USB welcomes a USDA Office of Inspector General audit of any and all
of its operations, contractor operations and projects. We would encourage
all U.S. soybean farmers to learn more about how USB and the soybean
checkoff program operate by visiting www.unitedsoybean.org,
the only official website of USB and the soybean checkoff program.
Comments: There have been questions
raised about other checkoff programs in the past, and this latest development
will potentially bring a re-focus on other checkoff programs
that use grower dollars to fund various research and promotion efforts.
Expectations are that some populist-minded lawmakers will likely seize
on this latest development and start issuing statements and press releases
on the need to focus on how these programs are operated overall.
And, it will be interesting to see if the incoming Obama administration
decides to wade into this matter or not.
This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or
retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.