Soybean farmers have until the end of this month, May 30, 2014, to contact their local FSA office to essentially vote in favor of USDA holding a national referendum on the future of the Soybean Promotion and Research Program (the Soybean Checkoff).
Under the rules of the national soybean checkoff program, every five years the USDA must give farmers the opportunity to vote to continue the program. Rather than simply hold a vote where farmers could register a “yes” or “no” on the program, USDA first conducts a “request for referendum” – which is what is happening now.
What this boils down to is this:
If you are entirely happy with the soybean checkoff, do nothing. Doing nothing essentially means you don’t wish to have a vote.
If you would like the opportunity to vote on the continuation of the program, you should participate in this request for referendum by May 30.
To participate, contact your local FSA office and request information on the soybean checkoff referendum procedures. You may also find information online at www.ams.usda.gov.
You are eligible to participate if you, as the producer, corporation or other entity paid checkoff assessments on soybeans between January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2013. You will also need to one piece of documentation, such as a sales receipt, to the form you will fill out as proof.
If you wish to go online and sort this out for yourself, USDA doesn’t make it simple. The agency’s descriptions of what’s going in news releases and elsewhere are “govspeak,” there is at least one critical broken link on a page to information and the latest press release didn’t even include direct links or concise, clear instructions on how to participate. So, here are a couple of links if you don’t want to handle matters in-person at your FSA office:
- Latest news release
- Information on Soybean Request for Referendum page
- Soybean Request for Referendum form – there are no instructions here, this is why going to your local office may be the best bet with limited time until the deadline. Just be sure to take a piece of documentation as described earlier in this post.
- USDA FAQ on the Request for Referendum
Ohio Farmers Union policy is that all checkoff programs should be voluntary at the point of sale. This means that rather than your local elevator collecting the 1/2 cent per bushel on your beans automatically, you should be asked whether you wish to participate.
With the recent passage of an increased Ohio Beef Checkoff and this request for a referendum on the soybean checkoff, several OFU members have spoken up at recent county meetings and contacted our state office requesting guidance on getting checkoff dollars refunded. Please watch the Ohio Farmers Union website and the next edition of the Ohio Country Messenger for an explainer on checkoff refunds for farmers.