The soybean checkoff takes its investment of farmer checkoff dollars very seriously and as a result is continuously reviewing its own programs to ensure effectiveness and efficiency.
The United Soybean Board (USB) Audit and Evaluation (A&E) Committee is charged with reporting to the board the outcomes of any audits and evaluations performed on behalf of the soybean checkoff.
Each year the A&E program will do five to eight compliance reviews of the Qualified State Soybean Boards (QSSBs). These compliance reviews are intended to assist each QSSB with making sure its work is compliant with the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act (Act & Order).
“The A&E program is a system of checks and balances,” says Jim Stillman, A&E program chair and a soybean farmer from Emmetsburg, Iowa. “We are continuously reviewing and auditing programs, contractors and subcontractors to ensure they are doing what they are asked.”
The QSSBs aren’t the only ones being evaluated. Each year USB performs several sub-contractor audits intended to review their work. The audits are not only reports of how checkoff dollars are being spent, but also a way for USB to assist subcontractors with any checkoff compliance issues they may have. The report can assure USB farmer-leaders that checkoff dollars expended on projects are being utilized in a manner that will create increased profit opportunities for soybean farmers while remaining compliant with the Act & Order. The A&E program performs between five and eight subcontractor audits each year.
The primary contractors for Domestic Marketing programs, International Marketing programs and Communications are audited every three years on a rotating basis. The A&E program will perform one or two program evaluations each year to determine the program’s effectiveness compared to its goals and the board’s long-range strategic plan.
“We like to follow through and make sure we are spending checkoff dollars wisely and make sure we are getting value out of the checkoff,” says Stillman. “We want to make sure the projects we look at are fully invested in improving the return on investment of checkoff dollars.”
A recent study funded through the A&E program and conducted by Gary Williams at Texas A&M University determined the checkoff provides a $6.40 return on every checkoff dollar invested. The return on investment study is conducted every five years.
USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.