Commodities need aggressive and ongoing research and development programs.
The defeated pork checkoff is clearly not good news for soybean growers. U.S. pork producers use nearly one quarter, or the equivalent of 310 million bushels, of all U.S. soybean meal in hog feeds. In fact, almost 2 lbs of soybeans are used for every pound of pork consumed in the U.S.
"The results of the referendum may have a detrimental effect on the producer-driven U.S. pork industry," says Doug Magnus, a Minnesota soybean farmer and chairman of the United Soybean Board. "This, in turn, could have a negative impact on U.S. soybean farmers and the U.S. soybean industry."
The last few years, for example, the pork and soybean checkoffs have leveraged their funds in joint meat export promotion programs. Now those programs won't be able to fully realize their potential, Magnus says.
Checkoff-funded programs allow producers, like you, to finance development of new products and uses for your soybeans. For example, check out all the products and research in this year's "New Uses" special report that begins on page 21. That's just a part of where all your checkoff dollars go. Without that funding, many of the aggressive and ongoing research and development programs you and the United Soybean Board support just wouldn't happen.
So why would pork producers decide to terminate their 15-year (begun in 1985), $54-million checkoff program? Time and time again, research shows that checkoff programs do, indeed, provide big returns for the producer investment.
With rapid vertical integration in the hog industry, smaller pork producers are already fighting an uphill battle with the big guns - like Smithfield and Tyson. If money isn't spent on research and new product development at the producer level, you can bet the big boys will become even more powerful.
At press time, pork producers are in the midst of legal action against USDA. A temporary restraining order has been filed to preserve the checkoff. Pork producers, including the National Pork Producers Council, are claiming flaws in the voting process.
The good news for you, and the industry, is that the soybean request for referendum conducted in late 1999 supported continuation of the soybean checkoff. In fact, support was so strong that fewer than 3% of you signed petitions requesting a referendum.