Tuesday, March 3, 2009
'Soybeangate’ gets polite treatment at Classic
The long-standing rift in the soybean industry between the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the United Soybean Board (USB) widened to a canyon in December, when ASA charged USB with misconduct in managing the National Soybean Checkoff. ASA requested a USDA investigation of eight different allegations.
Given the seriousness of the charges, you had to wonder if there wouldn’t be some fireworks at the Commodity Classic last week in Grapevine, Texas.
ASA and USB held press conferences, both of which were well attended by the media, though clearly this was not the kind of press corps that hounded Richard Nixon into a corner. Questions from the press were polite.
Leaders from both groups stuck to a script in which the “soybeangate” topic was kept in the background. Johnny Dodson, ASA president, talked about the group’s successes with the farm bill, biotech development, and exports promotions, among other things. He touted the groups 16% growth in new members this year.
Dodson eventually was questioned about the new American Soybean Federation created by a break-away groups in Minnesota and Missouri. “The federation will just flutter away,” he said. (In a January news release, he was more blunt, calling the action "radical and ill-conceived.”)
Next, John Hoffman, ASA chairman, responding to a question, defended ASA’s actions, saying that “at the end of the day it will be a good thing to restore accountability and transparency” to the checkoff."
At their press conference the next day, USB representatives put the spotlight on their support for new research and other checkoff initiatives. Chuck Myers, USB president and a Nebraska farmer, addressed the controversy indirectly, pointing out that a new producer survey shows 87% support for the checkoff among ASA members.
In a video interview, Myers told me that farmers attending the classic had given him “a lot of feedback, all very supportive."
Asked by another reporter about any tensions felt at the Classic, Myers said, “Everything I have observed has been very cordial.” He described ASA as a host of the annual conference, and USB as a guest at the event.
Soybeangate has been a divisive issue among growers, but for this time and place, people were determined to be polite in public, and maybe that's a start to bridging the big chasm between the two organizations.
Posted by John Walter at 7:05 PM