Troubles in soy land

With soy-based products and chemicals conquering the biobased market, troubles over money seem to be infesting the US soybean industry. and the US Department of Agriculture is rooting out the problem.

Last month, the American Soybean Association (ASA) asked the US Department of Agriculture to investigate possible mismanaged funding and wasteful spending at the United Soybean Board (USB), which operates the national soybean checkoff and the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

The ASA is the policy-making arm for soybean growers, while the USB focuses on industry relations and market access, among other things. The Export Council is funded with checkoff and taxpayer dollars. The USB’s checkoff program, which is credited for finding more uses and buyers for US soybeans, is said to have collected about $140 million in 2008 from farmers, who contribute 0.5 percent of market price from each bushel of soybeans.

The ASA submitted a petition last December to the USDA requesting a full and impartial investigation.Other allegations of abuse from the ASA 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
  • The 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
  • Improper and wasteful expenditure of checkoff funds

Knives, improper sexual relationships, and whistleblowers?!?! Wow! Sounds like a good script for a movie! But seriously, if taxpayers are funding some of the programs and there are bad things going on under the table, then an investigation is indeed needed. Unless these allegations are just green jealousy talking.

The ASA says a few disgruntled checkoff and state leaders have separated from the group and formed their own soybean federation called the U.S. Soybean Federation or USSF. It’s founded by the state soybean associations in Missouri, Minnesota and Mississippi.

Newly elected USSF President Lance Peterson, a soybean farmer in Minnesota, says producers need an organization that has “no other focus than to fairly, vigorously and effectively represent the voice of all U.S. soybean farmers in the federal legislative process.”

I guess the soy war has begun! That will probably make the Brazilian soy market and the Malaysian palm oil industry happier this year.

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