The Soybean Promotion and Research Order (Order) is authorized by the Soybean Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Act [7 U.S.C. 6301-6311]. The Act was passed as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. It authorized the establishment of a national soybean promotion, research, and consumer information program. The program became effective on July 9, 1991, when the Order was published. Assessments began September 1, 1991.
As required by the Act, USDA conducted a referendum among soybean producers on February 9, 1994, to determine whether the program should continue. Of the 85,906 valid ballots cast, 53.8 percent of soybean producers voting favored the program. As required by the Act, USDA conducted a producer poll on July 26, 1995, to determine whether producers supported conducting a referendum to determine if refunds should continue. Only 48,782 producers participated in the poll – less than the 76,200 required to cause a refund referendum to be conducted. Refunds were discontinued on October 1, 1995.
As required by the Act, USDA conducted a producer poll from October 20, 1999 through November 16, 1999. The producer poll is used to determine whether producers support conducting a referendum that would decide whether the program should continue. The results of the producer poll were announced on May 15, 2000. Only 17,970 producers participated in the poll – less than the 60,082 required to cause a referendum to be conducted.
On July 13, 2004, the USDA announced the results of a soybean request for referendum. The results showed too few soybean producers wanted a continuance referendum on the Order. The request for referendum was held from May 1 through May 28, 2004, at USDA’s Farm Service Agency county offices. If at least 10 percent (not in excess of one-fifth of which can be producers in any one state) of the 663,880 soybean producers nationwide had participated in the request for referendum, a referendum would have been held. Only 3,206 valid requests for a referendum were cast; far short of the 66,388 required to trigger a referendum.
During the period of May 4-29, 2009, eligible soybean producers were provided the opportunity to request a referendum on the Soybean Checkoff program. This legislated activity occurs every 5 years. On July 17, 2009, USDA announced that only 759 soybean producers participated--far short of the 58,918 required for a referendum.
The program’s goal is to strengthen the position of soybeans in the marketplace and to maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets and uses for soybeans and soybean products. It is funded by a mandatory assessment of 0.5 of 1 percent of the net market price of soybeans. All producers marketing soybeans must pay the assessment. Assessments under the national program average $90-95 million ($101.4 million in fiscal year 2012) annually and are used to fund promotional and informational campaigns and to conduct research with the objective of expanding and improving the use of soybeans and soybean products.
The Act provides for a producer poll every 5 years to determine whether producers favor conducting a continuance referendum.
The program is administered by the United Soybean Board, which has 69 members representing 29 States and 2 combined units. The initial Board was appointed by the Secretary, from soybean producers nominated by eligible organizations, for 1-, 2-, or 3-year terms. During each subsequent year, the Secretary appoints approximately one-third of all Board members for 3-year terms. The Board develops budgets and contracts to carry out a coordinated program of promotion, research, consumer information, and industry information. The Board’s office is located in Chesterfield, Missouri.
An economic evaluation of the program was conducted by the Texas Agribusiness Market Research Center at Texas A&M University in 2009. They estimated a rate-of-return of $6.40 for every checkoff dollar invested.