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New Soybean Board Chairman will oversee record budget

DANIEL LOOKER 12/09/2010 @ 2:18pm Business Editor

On Thursday, Marc Curtis, of Leland, Mississippi, was elected chairman of the United Soybean Board, which administers the national soybean checkoff of 0.5% of the initial gross sales of soybeans.

The Board’s current fiscal year, which started last October, is projected to have enough carryover funds and revenue for a record budget of  $103.5 million, thanks to strong soybean prices.

Curtis, who raises soybeans, wheat and  “a little bit of corn,” says that one of his top three goals for the year is to make sure that the new programs the Board has been able to start will continue to bring a six-fold return on every dollar soybean farmers contribute to the Board.

“It’s a significant increase in the ability to do things for the farmer,” Curtis says. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure the soybean farmer maintains his $6.40 return on his investment dollar, even at these high levels.”

That’s the estimated return mainly from four areas that have gotten support through the checkoff--increasing exports, supporting research to increase soybean yields, finding new uses for soybeans, and supporting animal agriculture.

“Animals are our end user. They’re our main customer and it only behooves us to support [livestock producer interests] so they can buy our products,” he says. USB helps pay for the work of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, for example.

With four consecutive years of increased soybean exports behind us, the Board can point to success in that area. And new uses for soybeans continue to be developed and registered. For example, most new Ford vehicles now have seats made with soy-based foam. Ford is starting to license its technology to other auto companies, Curtis says, as well as to John Deere, which is using soy foam in tractor seats.

A second goal for Curtis is better financial oversight of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), which gets funds from the Soybean Board. 

“They always did a good job in foreign countries developing markets, but the business side of their operation needs to be improved,” Curtis says.

In 2008 the American Soybean Association alleged several cases of misuse of funds USSEC and requested an investigation by USDA’s Inspector General. The results, which became public last July, found insufficient evidence of wrong doing but also recommended better oversight by the Soybean Board.

Curtis says that improved oversight had begun before July. “I think everybody is confident right now that we’re on the right path,” he says.

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