Jan 09, 2009
The American Soybean Association (ASA) today expressed disappointment upon receiving news that a few disgruntled checkoff and state leaders have formed a new soybean federation in an attempt to distract the U.S. soybean industry and undermine ASA’s efforts calling for an audit and investigation of the national soybean checkoff. The ASA calls the action by these individuals illogical considering that USDA Secretary Schafer has already recommended that the Inspector General conduct an audit and investigation of the national soybean checkoff in response to the concerns and allegations raised in ASA’s petition.
"At ASA, we believe the action proposed by a few farmers to establish a soybean federation is a radical and ill-conceived move," said ASA President Johnny Dodson, a soybean producer from Halls, Tenn. "It is truly unfortunate that some checkoff and state leaders feel so threatened by ASA’s efforts to have an impartial investigation to find out the truth about national soybean checkoff operations that they are willing to go to such lengths. Soybean farmers are best served by a single national policy organization that speaks to lawmakers with a unified voice, and an accountable and transparent national soybean checkoff that operates in a legal, ethical, and financially responsible manner. The action being taken by a few individuals in Minnesota and Missouri jeopardizes both."
ASA Chairman John Hoffman, a soybean producer from Waterloo, Iowa, added, "Unfortunately, this move illustrates all too well some of the problems that have been alleged about the national checkoff, namely the lack of transparency, accountability and the willingness to spend tremendous resources for self-preservation – even when these actions aren’t in the best interests of soybean farmers."
During the December ASA Board meeting, Board members representing soybean producers in the state of Minnesota and Missouri, along with all the other ASA Board members representing producers in their states, had the opportunity to review the allegations of improper activities involving the national soybean checkoff and voted unanimously to take action in the best interest of U.S. soybean farmers.
ASA First Vice President Rob Joslin, a soybean producer from Sidney, Ohio, said "I have seen the evidence and I believe ignoring these serious allegations of abuse or sweeping them under the rug would have been wrong and would have done a disservice to all soybean farmers who are paying into the checkoff. Investigating any problem areas is the right thing to do for U.S. soybean farmers so we will have a more responsive and accountable soybean checkoff as a result."
The allegations of abuse are serious and include use of a knife against another individual by an employee at an official function; an improper sexual relationship disrupting the management of the Japan foreign office and jeopardizing U.S. soy exports to that market, and misuse of checkoff and federal funds to facilitate the improper relationship; no-bid contracting violations; a one-sided investigation and white-washing of these actions; the firing of whistleblower employees; conflicts of interest; potential evasions of salary and administrative caps established in the national soybean checkoff act; and improper and wasteful expenditure of checkoff funds.
"U.S. soybean farmers are best served by one strong national association that represents all soybean farmers in all states," Dodson said. "The American Soybean Association has a tremendous record of success of working with soybean producers from all states and is continually watching out for the interests of soybean farmers. From improving the soybean safety net in farm bills, to passage and subsequent extensions of the biodiesel tax incentive, to the opening of foreign markets for U.S. soybeans and products through trade negotiations—the accomplishments of the ASA literally have added billions of dollars to soybean farmer incomes."
"Efforts by some checkoff and state leaders to cut off any questioning or criticism of the national soybean checkoff are indicative of the kind of resistance the ASA has faced over a span of time as it has tried to address some fundamental and critical issues," Hoffman said. "ASA believes in the need for a national soybean checkoff program. The checkoff has accomplished many important things for soybean farmers and should continue to do so. However, it must operate with accountability, transparency, and in a legal, ethical, and financially responsible manner."
"At ASA, we believe threats, bullying tactics and attempts such as this to divide our industry will be harmful to U.S. soybean farmers and the industry as a whole," Joslin said. "We stand strongly against the attempts of a few to set back the hard work of many over the past 88 years to advocate and advance the best interests of U.S. producers. ASA is proud of its record of success and has every intention to continue working together with its state affiliates in the best interest of all U.S. soybean farmers."