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.