Across the Editor's Desk: February 2009
In the fourth or fifth grade, I first practiced what is a long-standing American tradition: If you don't like what's happening in the group you are in, go start a new one.
As I recall, several of us boys who were playing the game work up in baseball didn't like the casual play of several of the other boys who made us easy outs. So we not only got mad, we left.
There were too few of us who broke away to play work up, so we chose another game, 500.
Within days, a few other boys who had been shooting baskets at recess joined us. Soon a few of the boys from the original work up game came. So we started playing work up again. In time, everyone got back together and the split was forgotten.
I recalled my breakaway incident in recent weeks as I followed the announcement of the new U.S. Soybean Federation. New USSF President Lance Peterson of Underwood, Minnesota, said recent actions of the American Soybean Association triggered the need for a new soybean organization.
ASA had raised concerns of improper use of checkoff funds by the United Soybean Board and had asked USDA to investigate.
"We need both a strong checkoff organization and a strong policy and advocacy organization that can work independently but cooperatively," Peterson said. "We need an organization like USSF that will have no other focus than to fairly, vigorously, and effectively represent the voice of all U.S. soybean growers in the federal legislative process."
ASA was not pleased, saying that Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer had already recommended that the Inspector General conduct an audit and investigation of the allegations.
"At ASA, we believe the action proposed by a few farmers to establish a soybean federation is a radical and ill-conceived move," said ASA President Johnny Dodson of Halls, Tennessee. "It is truly unfortunate," he continued, "that some checkoff and state leaders feel so threatened by ASA's effort to have an impartial investigation to find out the truth about national soybean checkoff operations that they are willing to go to such lengths.
"Soybean farmers," he adds, "are best served by a single national policy organization that speaks to lawmakers with a unified voice."
The single voice idea certainly sounds ideal but is not the way we often behave in agriculture. In 1956, corn growers from nine states came together to launch the National Corn Growers Association to help gain "public recognition, appreciation, and political support." But in 1987, a new group started -- the American Corn Growers Association. ACGA says the group was formed "after strong dissatisfaction with corn producer representation during the 1985 farm bill debate."
The American National Cattlemen's Association and National Livestock Feeders Association merged in 1977 to form the National Cattlemen's Association. Then, R-CALF USA was founded in 1998 because "cattle producer concerns were not being represented." Good-bye one voice.
Agriculturists are passionate, strong willed, and independent. Cornfields, soybean fields, and pastures may all look alike in the countryside, but they don't reveal anything about the views that burn in the minds of the producers who tend them.