We travel quite a bit in our duties as agricultural journalists, and sometimes we have the opportunity to break some really important news. This week our Lindsay Hill, Vice President of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, has been in St. Louis for a series of soybean industry meetings. This morning, Lindsay was on hand when the American Soybean Association announced a request they filed with USDA asking for an investigation into the management of the soybean checkoff. This is perhaps the biggest ag-specific story of the year as the two major organizations serving soybean farmers are at loggerheads over a number of different issues.
Lindsay, for what it’s worth, is one of only two agricultural journalists on-site this week, and spent the first two days flying solo… I was a little surprised there weren’t more of our colleagues, not just broadcast but across all media, on hand for these annual meetings, but with the advent of communications on the web, many news departments find it difficult to justify having a reporter on hand for a three or four day meeting given the cost of travel.
The good news, however, is that because of the web-capable nature of ABN’s news operations, Lindsay conducted the first media interviews with ASA President John Hoffman and Vice President Rob Joslin, had them emailed to me in time to air in today’s broadcast programming, and within minutes I had two stories posted on the issue with ABN-Exclusive audio at BuckeyeAg.com. It was pretty intense and exciting.
NOW, stepping away from my news-junkie nature into my shoes as an agriculture advocate, this situation is extremely troubling. These two organizations are critically important to soybean farmers across the nation, and ASA’s allegations are terribly serious. Regardless of what USDA finds in its investigation, this situation will not end smoothly; there will be some lasting rift between the two bodies for some period of time following the USDA audit.
Because we’re so early into this situation, farmers have some very mixed emotions on the issue, as Lindsay learned when she talked with Shelby County neighbor Rob Joslin. Rob is very passionate about the importance of the Checkoff, and got a little choked up when discussing the response from growers at the meetings in St. Louis. It’s clear that the growers on the ASA Board, who in many cases have served USB in some capacity or been involved with their own State Qualified Soybean Boards, took this decision very seriously.
Questions are still emerging including what USDA’s response will be, as well as whether or not this investigation will spill into management of the Qualified State Soybean Boards. Rob Joslin was clear in pointing out that ASA’s imminent concern is with the management of the checkoff at the federal level, but there are a number of state soybean boards who might also be impacted by this situation due to the relationship between the state and national checkoff programs.
Lindsay’s exclusive audio is available, along with the complete commentary from ASA and response from USB at BuckeyeAg.com.