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USDA is hearing requests for a referendum on the soybean checkoff from now through the end of May.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

May 21, 2019

2 Min Read
soybean plants
CHECKOFF: Soybean farmers pay a mandatory checkoff of one-half of 1% of the net market price of soybeans. Half of that total goes to the United Soybean Board and becomes part of their $100 million budget. The rest remains in-state.

USDA is now taking requests for a referendum on the soybean checkoff. The request period began May 6 and ends May 31.

What does that mean exactly? USDA gives farmers the chance to request a referendum every five years to determine if they want to vote on continuation of the soybean checkoff program. If at least 10% of the 515,008 soybean producers across the U.S. complete the Soybean Promotion and Research Order Request for Referendum form and deliver it to their local Farm Service Agency office by May 31, USDA will hold a referendum on the soybean checkoff. No more than one-fifth of the 10% who support a referendum may come from any one state.

The United Soybean Board administers the national checkoff, which is mandatory for all producers except organic farmers. According to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, annual assessments under the national program were $89.5 million in 2016 and $101.6 million in 2017. USB runs the industry’s research and promotion program under AMS oversight.  

Soybeans are assessed at half of 1% of the net market price of soybeans. In Illinois, about $30 million was assessed and collected in 2017. Of that, $15 million went directly to USB, and the rest remains in Illinois under the direction of the Illinois Soybean Association. ISA spent approximately $8 million on production funding, $7 million on marketing, and $1 million on executive, management and administrative expenses.

The requests for referendums failed by large margins in both 2014 and 2009. In 2014, less than 350 valid request-for-referendum forms were filed, representing 0.06% of U.S. soybean farmers. In 2009, just 759 forms requesting a referendum were submitted.

Farmers certifying that they paid the checkoff at any time during a period beginning Jan. 1, 2017, and ending Dec. 31, 2018, are eligible to participate in the petition for a referendum. Eligible farmers who do not want a referendum do not need to take any action.

The checkoff program was created and is administered under the authority of the Soybean Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Act. It became effective on July 9, 1991, when the Soybean Promotion and Research Order was published.  Assessments began Sept. 1, 1991.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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