Every five years, according to the enabling legislation for the Soybean Promotion, Research, and Information Program, eligible soybean farmers across the United States have the opportunity to file a form with USDA to request a referendum on the program.
The program, known as the Soybean Checkoff, was voted on by farmers in an initial 1994 referendum. Nearly 86,000 farmers around the country participated in this initial referendum and it passed, 54 to 46 percent. After the initial referendum, the USDA must ask soy farmers every five years if they would like to have another referendum. If 10 percent of eligible soy farmers present in person or by fax Form LS-51-1 to their local FSA office by May 31, 2019 there would be another referendum. Eligible farmers may get the form from their local FSA office or download it here. If you download it and fill it out, it must still be submitted in person or by fax to your local FSA office.
To be eligible to participate in the Request for Referendum, producers must certify that they or the producer entity they are authorized to represent paid an assessment at any time between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2018.
In plain language, this means that if farmers want to vote on putting an end to the checkoff, enough farmers around the country who have paid the checkoff in the past two years must send in a form to request the right to vote. In 2014, the last time the ‘request for referendum’ window was open, 324 farmers submitted Form LS-51-1. That’s a long way from the nearly 57,000 farmers that were needed to request the referendum in 2014. This year it would take around 52,000 eligible soy farmers.
If there were to be a referendum, it would occur in the next 12 months.
Roger Wise, past-president of Ohio Farmers Union said today, “It’s not often that you get to vote on whether to continue paying a tax – and that’s what that the checkoff is at this point.”
Wise a long-time soybean farmer in Sandusky County said the system is rigged to obfuscate the ability for farmers to hold the vote with the unnecessary step of the ‘request for referendum.’ He also points out that there hasn’t been much of an attempt by USDA or the national or state soybean council to advertise the request for referendum, “and that makes it all the more important that farmers make an attempt to file that form with their local FSA.”
If you’d like to see a vote on whether to continue the soybean checkoff, you have until the end of this month to file the form.