Soybean farmers from Minnesota, Missouri, and Mississippi have formed the U.S. Soybean Federation. USSF will be comprised primarily of existing state soybean associations or new state soybean federations.
Articles of Incorporation for USSF were filed last week with the Minnesota Secretary of State's office. Former Minnesota Soybean Association President Lance Peterson will serve as the President-elect of the group. He says the group was formed in reaction to the audit of the United Soybean Board requested in December by the American Soybean Association.
"We're concerned that ASA as it stands right now has lost its focus in terms of effective policy organization," Peterson said. "They are very aggressively going after the national checkoff program and we feel that there needs to be a voice in place that has the main emphasis of being that effective policy voice for the farmer."
Peterson says this is not something they desired to do, but something they felt they needed to do to have an effective voice in Washington, D.C. However; Peterson says they want to keep the national soybean checkoff intact and stay affiliated with the American Soybean Association.
Officers in addition to Peterson are Vice President Warren Stemme of Missouri and Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Slocum of Mississippi. Stemme says the USSF will have a different structure and organization.
"One of the most important features of this new organization is that every state affiliate will have equal representation," says Stemme. "Regardless of a state's production numbers or the number of state soybean organization members, will be allowed ten farmer delegates. It means an equal voice for all states, but more importantly all soybean farmers."
According to Peterson the funding for the new soybean group will be shared by the participating state associations in addition to outside contributors.
"Initially we're going to have to reach out and it's probably going to be industry and corporate funding," Peterson said. "But this is not the same structure whereas with ASA when board members travel then ASA pays the expenses. This will be the situation where the states would have to pick up the costs for their representatives to travel. So really the expenses associated with this new structure would come into effect when it comes to hiring a lobbyist."
Peterson says the next step is outreach and confirmation of additional state soybean organizations as affiliates. The plan is to hire a lobbyist to serve as CEO of the organization and offices will eventually be located in Washington, D.C.
In response the ASA expressed disappointment and called the establishment of the federation a radical and ill-conceived move.
"U.S. soybean farmers are best served by one strong national association that represents all soybean farmers in all states," ASA President Johnny Dodson said. "The American Soybean Association has a tremendous record of success of working with soybean producers from all states and is continually watching out for the interests of soybean farmers."
ASA Chairman John Hoffman questioned the motives for the formation of USSF.
"Efforts by some checkoff and state leaders to cut off any questioning or criticism of the national soybean checkoff are indicative of the kind of resistance the ASA has faced over a span of time as it has tried to address some fundamental and critical issues," Hoffman said. "ASA believes in the need for a national soybean checkoff program. The checkoff has accomplished many important things for soybean farmers and should continue to do so. However, it must operate with accountability, transparency, and in a legal, ethical, and financially responsible manner."