Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer has responded to the petition the American Soybean Association filed on Dec. 10, 2008 asking for an investigation of the United Soybean Board and the U.S. Soybean Export Council to make sure soybean checkoff funds are being properly used. Schafer signed a memorandum recommending that the Office of the Inspector General conduct an audit and if necessary an investigation of the National Soybean Checkoff.
"ASA is doing what is in the best interest of soybean farmers ethically, legally and financially," said ASA President Johnny Dodson, a soybean producer from Halls, Tenn. "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. Investigating and then correcting any problem areas is the right thing to do for U.S. soybean farmers. ASA hopes we will have a more responsive and accountable soybean checkoff as a result."
Among the allegations that prompted ASA to petition USDA for an investigation are potential evasions of salary and administrative caps, conflicts of interest, an improper sexual relationship that disrupted the management of the Japanese foreign office, misuse of checkoff and federal funds as well as other charges.
"The filing of the petition was not about any disagreements that the ASA may have with the USB," Dodson 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.
According to ASA Secretary Schafer and Inspector General Phylis Fong have discussed how best to proceed with the audit and investigation. A process will be established by the Inspector General's Office on how the audit and investigation will go forward with the involvement of Inspector General staff and other USDA agencies.