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44829

Board members profess surprise at allegations

United Soybean Board members responded Thursday to a call for a USDA investigation of its activities by the American Soybean Association, saying that they were taken by surprise when ASA released allegations of misconduct Wednesday.

"This action was a complete surprise to me, personally," said Ike Boudreaux, the Board's immediate past chairman and a farmer from Lebeau, Louisiana.

Boudreaux said that three members of USB and ASA leadership teams had met twice this year, starting last March in Memphis and later in Omaha.

"We did discuss a lot of issues at those three-on-three meetings but I thought we were moving forward," Boudreaux said at a press conference in St. Louis Thursday.

Then the meeting stopped and Boudreaux's first knowledge of ASA's call for an investigation came in a phone call he got from ASA president, John Hoffman at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, about the time ASA released its allegations.

The incoming USB chairman, Lyons, Nebraska farmer Chuck Myers, added that "I hold the farmers on this board with the highest regard and respect."

"They didn't come here to make mistakes and be foolish with other farmers' soybean checkoff dollars," Myers said.

Myers and other USB leaders said that USDA must approve all of the Board's publicity and projects and that it would cooperate with any USDA investigations.

Myers said that soybean-based biodiesel fuel would not have been developed without USB-funded research. And recent studies have shown a return on investment of $6 for every $1 spent by USB.

Myers also said that the latest survey of soybean farmers support the soybean checkoff.

In an interview with Agriculture Online Wednesday, ASA president Hoffman, a Waterloo, Iowa farmer, said that his group fully supports the checkoff, too. But it believes that the USB could be spending money more effectively to promote exports, for example.

Hoffman said that ASA believes that USB has spent about $10 to $15 million annually on advertising to U.S. farmers. {For the record, some of that advertising has appeared in Successful Farming magazine, the owner of this website.] ASA questions whether some of that could have been spent on more effectively promoting soybean use or exports.

That concern, which ASA calls "The Apparent Excessive Spending by USB on Self-Promotion, Self-Perpetuation," was one of eight allegations ASA wants investigated by USDA's Office of Inspector General.

United Soybean Board members responded Thursday to a call for a USDA investigation of its activities by the American Soybean Association, saying that they were taken by surprise when ASA released allegations of misconduct Wednesday.

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