Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Commodity Checkoff's, Cussed and Discussed!

The American Soybean Association has accused the United Soybean Board of mis-use of funds among a host of other things.

The Soybean Association is the educational wing of the soybean checkoff and the Board spends the money for research and promotion. Almost every commodity is represented this way in one shape or form.

This might seem like a poor topic to my non-farm and even my non-soybean producing friends but it has some of my friends in ire. I don't like to see them upset. It is about like the dissension and apprehension involved with our new President who was just sworn in minutes ago. Do you pledge all your support or stand back?

As American's and soybean growers we get so involved and dis-interested sometimes we stand back and let someone else do the work. Besides, it is hard enough keeping up with our own daily routine and chores these days.

I have listened to Orion Samuelson, formerly of US Farm Report fame and now AgriBusiness Weekly shown on the satellite networks we watch out in the country and some local channels. I met him at the Farm Progress Show and FFA Conventions several times and he is almost always the voice of reason.

This is what "Samuelson Sez":

News > Featured Columnists > Samuelson Sez
Samuelson Sez
Samuelson Sez - Checkoffs are Essential - 1/19/2009

There are several things, I’m sure, that America’s farmers and ranchers don’t really need in 2009. Today I would like to focus on two areas that I think we could well do without in agriculture, in this new year.

First of all, we don’t need a family squabble in this relatively small agricultural family in the United States. Secondly, I really don’t think we need another farm organization; yet we are getting both in the current controversy over the spending of checkoff dollars in the Soybean Checkoff Program.

Many of you, I’m sure, are aware that the American Soybean Association has filed an official request with the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to check allegations of funds being misspent as well as some questionable personal-conduct activities in the soybean program. The Association wants them fully investigated and corrected.

Now, along with that we have a group of soybean farmers who have formed yet another soybean organization, The United Soybean Federation. I’m not quite sure why and I certainly don’t understand why we need yet another organization in agriculture. Be that as it may, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Shafer, in his news conference at the Farm Bureau Convention in San Antonio last week, said “the allegations are serious and as the overseer of all checkoff programs, the Department of Agriculture will indeed check out the allegations to determine if they are true or false.”

I want to go beyond this single incident however, and talk about the checkoff programs in general; because any “black eye” for any one program is going to spill over to all checkoff programs and raise questions about funds being collected and spent. I firmly believe that American agriculture and producers have benefitted from check-off programs; dollars that have conducted research, promotion, marketing and advertising; dollars that brought us “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner”, “Pork, the other white meat”, “Got Milk?”, “3-A- Day” and all of the promotions that have helped expand the consumption, as well as the nutrition and safety, of America’s agricultural products.

I have been saying for decades that if producers are not willing to invest their time and money into marketing their products, then one of two things will happen. It won’t get done at all or it will be done in a way that will not help producers. We need these checkoff programs; we need the staffs and farmer board members to conduct them in a legal and constructive way; and we need to correct this situation quickly before it infects the entire checkoff system.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.

I can't disagree but a statement from Orion or Ed won't settle this disagreement between the Association and the Board. I am afraid the courts will and that is never a pretty situation in any marriage.

What do you think?

I think I just want to see my friends happy. They have worked so hard to get soybeans used and respected as they are. We are really going to need that this year as farmers can't afford to grow as much corn in the past and intend to plant more soybeans.

I can tell you that I have worked hard to get local schools burning biodiesel and a couple thanked me for that last summer when diesel hit $4 per gallon. Soydiesel generates jobs right here in the country where we need them badly right now.

Soy is invaluable in food, feed, ink, platic, so many, many things we need an use.

We don't need our leaders disagreeing.

Stay warm, it is COLD here...



  1. Below are two emails I have sent to Buckeye Agri News. The blog I am refering to is www.buckeyeag.com. Haven't seen anything posted yet, reason for the second letter. If anyone wants to pass these on go for it. Bill

    Andy, I have been perusing your blog on the ostentatious allegations that ASA has brought before the USDA about the USB.

    I would also like to add that the USDA has forbidden the USB to answer the ASA allegations with out USDA's approval. This makes it very difficult to address Mr. Joslin's and Mr. Doson's allegations and remarks that you have quoted on your blog.

    It is a shame that the soybean industry and taxpayers have to spend the time and money for the OIG to do this investigation and audit, but USB has offered their full cooperation in the process and confidence in the outcome. The USDA has the final say over how the soybean check off can be invested. The USB's by laws and the act and order of the 1990 Farm Bill very specifically outline how check off dollars can be invested. All USB programs, expenditures and communications are approved in advance by USDA now as they always have been.

    The most frustrating thing about the whole ordeal is that the ASA had the audacity to release to the media the allegations about an hour before the USB was informed. In fact USB was contacted by the media about 30 minutes before ASA formally contacted the USB about the allegations. ASA was having their December 08 meeting in the same hotel and at the same time as the USB was meeting. The meeting halls were on the same floor. ASA did not have the respect for the check off and check off farmer leaders to walk down the hall and try to resolve these questions and allegations directly with USB. If you check, ASA was having their expenses for the meeting and the ASA directors expenses and travel to St Louis, paid by the soybean check off.

    Again I want to reiterate that the charges are allegations. USDA has and does audit the USB on a regular basis. The leadership of the ASA should be reprimanded for their sophomoric actions. Either way, ASA should stop spending so much time on talking to the media about an audit that is now in the hands of USDA and start focusing all its efforts on policy and advocacy efforts.

    I am a life time member of the ASA and because of this mess I am thinking of having my name removed from the membership rolls.

    Thank You for your time.

    Andy, I just wanted to follow up on my earlier email. I do hope we can catch up soon.

    A few additional thoughts: The ASA allegations against USSEC management were previously found to be without foundations after an investigation in July 08 that lasted several months. The USSEC Board, which contains equal number of USB and ASA Board members, voted to accept the findings of the investigations. In December the ASA brought up these same allegations that had previously been investigated and settled. ASA is now threatening to withhold FAS reimbursements due to USSEC, which means foreign offices that USSEC manages, and that are responsible for international marketing activities on behalf of U.S. farmers, are in jeopardy. Check off monies are not used for the day to day expenses and salaries in foreign offices, FAS dollars are.

    I really have to question what kind of hidden agenda that the leadership of ASA is trying to implement for the US soy industry. As a US soy producer and a life member of ASA I can't help but ask what Mr. Dodson and Mr. Joslin and other ASA leaders are really doing. I have to ask "Why are they disrupting the soy industry world wide, instead of helping the industry they represent", "What is your agenda ASA?" If USB is exonerated from these allegations, and I am sure they will be, how will we ever be able to trust the ASA to represent the soy industry again after they launched this negative attack against the check off? And I'm not talking about the request for the audit--USB will emerge from that with the same positive reputation they have enjoyed for so long. I'm talking about all of the negative publicity, the fake website, the professionally produced You Tube videos? How did that advance the US soybean farmer when the audit had not even taken place and the allegations were just that...allegations. I'm glad our U.S. court system doesn't act with the same approach as the ASA.

    I really feel adamant that the present leadership and CEO of the ASA should resign. We need real leaders to lead the soy industry world wide, not some imbeciles trying to further their asinine hidden agendas. If they don't resign how can we ever trust, believe or take them serious.


    By Steve Rogers
    Western Free Speech Council
    February 2009 Monthly Newsletter

    Olympia, Washington - In recent years, there have been numerous court challenges
    nationwide objecting to agricultural commodity commissions' use of mandatory
    assessments for advertising and market promotion programs. The lawsuits have centered
    on allegations that such programs infringe upon First Amendment rights of free speech
    by mandating that producers pay assessments to fund generic advertising with which
    they may disagree.

    However, interestingly enough, none of the legal challenges of commodity commissions
    have involved the use of grower assessments for lobbying and political activities.

    In Washington State, agricultural commodity commissions have become increasingly
    active in lobbying and influencing governmental actions. In the last few years, as
    memberships of voluntary grower associations in Washington State have dwindled,
    agricultural commodity commissions have stepped in to fill the void and are
    redirecting more and more resources toward lobbying and political activities in
    Olympia and Washington, DC.

    However, according to many legal experts, the use of mandatory commodity commission
    assessments for lobbying and political activities is unconstitutional and therefore
    illegal. "Commodity commission assessments can be used for many things," notes Sarah
    Riley, principal consultant for the Western Free Speech Council, "like export
    development and research……However, one thing that is specifically illegal is
    influencing legislation or governmental action — lobbying."

    For example, a recent Supreme Court ruling (Davenport v. Washington Education
    Association) ruled that individual teachers should not be forced to fund lobbying and
    political speech they disagree with. In the opinion written by Antonin Scalia, which
    was unanimous except for a few sections, the Court was extremely concerned about
    people being forced to support compelled political or lobbying speech. In terms of
    legal precedence, this ruling has implications for other situations (in addition to
    unions) where business people or professionals are being forced to pay fees or
    assessments to other government mandated entities or organizations. Obviously, the
    example that immediately comes to mind is mandatory assessments for agriculture
    commodity commissions.

    On a related note, the Supreme Court has made a number of other rulings which clearly
    assert that the First Amendment prohibits the government from compelling political or
    ideological speech. In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Court
    held that Jehovah’s Witnesses could not be forced to stand and salute the American
    flag in violation of their religious beliefs. In Wooley v. Maynard, it set aside the
    conviction of a New Hampshire man who obscured a portion of his license plate that
    announced the state motto ‘‘Live Free or Die.’’ In Hurley v. Irish-American Gay,
    Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, it ruled that Boston could not compel a private
    association of veterans to allow members of a gay, lesbian, and bisexual group to
    march in the veterans’ parade. The First Amendment also protects individuals from
    forced financing of political or ideological speech. For example, in Abood v. Detroit
    Board of Education, the Court limited unions from spending on ideological messages
    those funds received from nonunion employees as part of agency shop arrangements. And
    the Court applied the union analogy to the law bar in Keller v. State Bar of
    California, excusing members from contributing funds to political and ideological

    In conclusion, as agricultural commodity commissions in Washington State continue to
    expand their political and lobbying presence in Olympia and Washington, DC, it is
    becoming increasingly evident that their legal risk of being successfully challenged
    for political and lobbying activities is a very high probability.


    The purpose of the Western Free Speech Council is to protect and defend individual
    free speech as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Based in Denver, Colorado, the
    Western Free Speech Council is a nonprofit organization that relies on private
    financial support from individuals, associations, foundations and corporations. For
    more information about the Council, please email us at

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