USB accused of mismanagement

12-12-2008 | |
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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