USDA has announced that it will not conduct a referendum on the Soybean Promotion and Research Program (soybean checkoff).

USDA received 3,206 signed request for referendum forms, which is less than half of one percent of all the eligible soybean producers at county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. Had 10% of the 663,880 eligible producers – with no more than one-fifth of the 10% coming from any one state – requested a referendum, the Secretary of Agriculture would have conducted the referendum within 12 months.

The request for referendum determined whether U.S. soybean producers wanted a referendum on the Soybean Promotion and Research Program. USDA selected a request period for a soybean checkoff referendum from May 3, 2004, to May 28, 2004. The Soybean Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Act requires that the Secretary of Agriculture provide soybean producers the opportunity to request a referendum every five years.

"We work hard at the United Soybean Board (USB) to try to make the right decisions on behalf of all producers," says USB Chairman Criss Davis, a soybean farmer from Shullsburg, WI. “We feel really good about the results from the poll for referendum that less than half a percent of producers signed the poll. We think that’s a real positive sign that we are doing the right things, on behalf of soybean farmers in the U.S.”

Producers certifying that they paid an assessment for soybeans at any time during a period beginning Jan. 1, 2002, and ending Dec. 31, 2003, were eligible to participate in the petition for a referendum. An eligible producer, as defined by the USDA, was any person engaged in the growing of soybeans in the U.S. who owned or shared ownership and risk of loss of such soybeans during this time period. Eligible individuals not wanting a referendum did not need to take any action.

Producers were able to obtain a form to request a referendum either in person, by mail or by fax from May 3, 2004, through May 28, 2004, at the county FSA office that maintains and processes the producer’s administrative farm records. Producers not participating in FSA programs were able to request a referendum at the county FSA office serving the area where they own or rent land.

Request for referendum forms returned by mail needed to be postmarked by May 28, 2004, and received in the county FSA office by June 7, 2004. Request for referendum forms returned in person or by fax must have been received in the county FSA office by May 28, 2004. Producers also needed to attach documentation such as a sales receipt to the form showing that the producer, corporation or other entity paid assessments on soybeans during the period from Jan. 1, 2002, through December 31, 2003. The procedures for the request for referendum were published in the March 23, issue of the Federal Register. The request for referendum dates were published in the March 25, 2004, issue of the Federal Register.

Notification of the request for referendum process is the responsibility of USB. USB placed a request for referendum notification in three national agricultural publications, 12 regional agricultural publications and 20 state agricultural publications, and ran public service announcements on AgriTalk, a nationally syndicated agricultural radio program. USB also distributed the notification to all Qualified State Soybean Boards and agricultural print and broadcast news media. AMS and FSA also distributed communications on the soybean checkoff request for referendum.

USB is made up of 62 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.