Nutrition

News 330 views last update:6 Aug 2012

USB accused of mismanagement

American soybean growers, united in the American Soybean Association (ASA) through a checkoff program pay a fee to the United Soybean Board (USB) for promotion of their sector. Now ASA accuses the USB of wasting their money.

ASA President John Hoffman (pictured) will ask Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer to order an Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation and financial audit of the National Soybean Checkoff Program.

The ASA petition calls for an investigation of the United Soybean Board (USB) and the US Soybean Export Council (USSEC) to ensure that soybean checkoff dollars are being managed and invested as prescribed by law.

"Serious ethical, legal, and financial allegations have been raised about how farmer checkoff funds and program activities are being conducted," said Hoffman, a soybean producer from Waterloo, Iowa.

Allegations include:

  • 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.

Export council allegations

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.

"With USB and USSEC, we are dealing with entities that are spending tens of millions per year in soybean farmer checkoff dollars and US taxpayer funds," Hoffman said.

"As the policy organization that represents US soybean farmers, it is ASA's responsibility to ensure that the soybean checkoff, and other entities the checkoff has created, are operating in an accountable and transparent manner in the best interest of soybean farmers."

"ASA believes the national soybean checkoff, as currently structured and operated, is no longer responsive and accountable to soybean farmers.

The failure of USB leaders to take decisive action on these particular matters is indicative of how USB is no longer accountable and responsive to the very soybean farmers who are paying funds into the checkoff program."

At the higher price and acreage levels experienced recently, checkoff collections from soybean farmers in fiscal year 2008 are estimated to exceed $140 million.

USB denies allegations
The United Soybean Board has responded to the allegations saying this is " categorically untrue."

In a statement, the USB said, "Today, US 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 US Department of Agriculture deems it necessary, USB welcomes a USDA Office of Inspector General audit of any and all of its operations, contractor operations and projects."

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