U.S. soybean checkoff audit proposed
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended Wednesday that its Office of Inspector General audit and, if necessary, investigate the activities of the National Soybean Checkoff program.
The St. Louis-based American Soybean Association petitioned for the USDA to investigate the checkoff program on Dec. 10. ASA's petition calls for an investigation of the United Soybean Board and U.S. Soybean Export Council to ensure that soybean checkoff dollars are being managed and invested as prescribed by law.
'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 who are paying the checkoff,' said ASA President Johnny Dodson, in a statement.
An ASA review revealed allegations of abuse within the checkoff program's management, such as:
' 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.
' Misuse of checkoff and federal funds to facilitate the improper relationship.
' No-bid contracting violations.
' Firing of whistleblower employees.
' Improper and wasteful expenditure of checkoff funds.
'The filing of the petition was not about any disagreements that the ASA may have with the USB,' Dobson said. 'There are good intentioned people, soybean farmers just like me, serving on the USB board, but somehow there has been a breakdown in the system that cannot be allowed to continue.'
ASA and its state soybean affiliates first developed the checkoff concept in the late 1980s and worked with Congress to establish the program under the 1990 Farm Bill. The checkoff involves the collection of a mandatory assessment of 0.5 percent of the net market price of soybeans at the first point of sale, such as when a farmer delivers soybeans to a grain elevator. The money from the assessment must be used to advance soybean marketing, production technology and development of new uses. Half of the amount collected remains within the state where it's collected and is invested by a state soybean board, while the other half is forwarded to the United Soybean Board.
As the policy organization that represents U.S. soybean farmers, ASA is responsible, along with Congress and USDA, to ensure that the soybean checkoff, and other entities the checkoff has created, are operating in an accountable and transparent manner and in the best interest of soybean farmers.
A number of other U.S. agricultural commodities also have national checkoff programs, including beef, blueberries, cotton, dairy products, eggs, fluid milk, Hass avocados, honey, lamb, mangos, mushrooms, peanuts, popcorn, pork, potatoes, sorghum and watermelons. ' Chris Gillis