Farm Talk


January 7, 2014

Mo. Soybean Assn. leadership shakeup ousts exec. director

Parsons, Kansas — Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two longtime leaders of the Missouri Soybean Association are out of their jobs as part of an organizational shakeup following an audit of how the prominent agricultural group managed millions of dollars of merchandising fees paid by farmers.

Board members of the soybean organization declined to release the audit and, in interviews with The Associated Press, provided no specific reason for the staffing changes.

But the ousted executives blamed their departure on an internal political squabble involving state and national leaders in the soybean industry.

Gone are Dale Ludwig, who served as executive director of the soybean association for more than 20 years, and the organization's field services manager, J.P. Dunn. Both resigned under pressure Dec. 19.

Their departures are notable because soybeans are a multi-billion-dollar business in Missouri, which ranked seventh nationally last year in soybean production.

Missouri's soybean organization has been a national leader in developing soy-based fuel used in diesel vehicles. It's also a significant political player, making endorsements of state officials and contributions through a political action committee.

Ludwig said he was placed on paid administrative leave for about a month before his departure as an audit was underway at the behest of the United Soybean Board.

The national board, created by a 1990 U.S. law, oversees about $180 million annually of ``check-off'' fees paid on all U.S. soybean sales to help promote the industry.

Half of that money goes to the national group and half stays with state organizations.

Ludwig blamed his departure on pressure from national soybean leaders.

``This whole thing has some politics involved,'' he said.

Dunn, who also cited ``internal politics,'' said he was asked to resign by the state soybean board.

``I did ask for an explanation and wasn't given one,'' Dunn said, adding that there was ``no wrongdoing, no scandal or anything like that.''

Both Dunn and Ludwig said they never were shown the audit. But Ludwig said concerns were raised during the auditing process about how the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council used its share of the farmers' check-off fees. Among other things, he said there was criticism for providing research money to private companies and for buying university laboratory equipment. The United Soybean Board's compliance manual states that it ``strongly discourages the funding of equipment.''

Ludwig said he also was accused of having a conflict of interest for investing in biodiesel facilities, which convert soybeans into fuel, while some of Missouri's merchandising funds were used to promote biodiesel. Dunn also is an investor in biodiesel businesses.

The Missouri Soybean Association focuses on industry advocacy while the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council distributes the farmers' check-off fees for industry research and marketing initiatives. Ludwig and Dunn worked for both entities.

The soybean association played an instrumental role in getting farmers to help start the Mid-America Biofuels plant in Mexico, Mo., and the Paseo biodiesel facility in Kansas City. Ludwig and Dunn both said they considered it their professional responsibility to personally invest in the facilities, which opened in 2006 and 2008.

``When I was out basically encouraging farmers to invest in this venture, it was from a standpoint of was I willing to walk the walk?'' Dunn said.

Ludwig said no one suggested he had a conflict until this year's audit was underway.

``Most everyone believed that if I was promoting it, that I should be involved in it,'' Ludwig said. ``Then a decade later, there were some people that said maybe that was a conflict of interest.''

Will Spargo, a southeast Missouri farmer who is chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, said he couldn't recall whether the audit identified any potential conflicts of interest. He said auditors found no money missing.

``There were just recommendations on how we handled procedures within the office when it comes to making sure we were recoding stuff in the proper places, and things we needed to do on a staff level to keep the flow of everything going smoother,'' Spargo said.

Spargo and Doug Thomas, who is president of the Association, declined to comment on the connection between the audit and the staffing changes.

John Becherer, the CEO of the United Soybean Board, said the audits are confidential and declined to discuss the one for Missouri.

``The findings go back to the state, and the state takes the appropriate action that they feel is necessary,'' Becherer said.

Since his resignation, Ludwig has registered as a lobbyist for Mid-America Biofuels, Paseo Biofuels and Missouri Farmers Care, a group backing a November ballot issue that would create a state constitutional right to farm.

Some state soybean board members praised Ludwig's tenure at the association.

``There's not a guy that is more dedicated to the soybean industry than Mr. Ludwig,'' said Kelly Forck, a Jefferson City soybean farmer who is a board member and its former president. £

Text Only
  • wheat_freeze_lodging.jpg Freeze could damage some Kan. wheat

    The hard freeze throughout Kansas in the early morning hours of April 15, could cause some damage to wheat, said Jim Shroyer, K-State Research and Extension crop production specialist. Wheat in the jointing stage is most at risk, he said.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • cornplantlatemay2.jpg WASDE report eases low crop price fears

    USDA’s April 9 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates continued a series of recent reports that have offered corn and soybean producers a more optimistic grain-price outlook than what was expected for most of the winter, Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt says.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • USDA: Corn acres expected to drop 4%

    The amount of American cropland devoted to corn is expected to shrink about 4 percent this year as farmers devote more acres to soybeans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week.

    April 8, 2014

  • Bt-resistant rootworms ID’d in five states

    Researchers say bugs are developing resistance to the widely popular genetically engineered corn plants that make their own insecticide, so farmers may have to make changes.

    April 1, 2014

  • MU economist: Corn, bean price volatility next 5 years

    Expect volatility in the soybean and corn markets over the next five years, said Pat Westhoff, director of the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (MU FAPRI).
    Look for corn prices to drop to $4 per bushel and soybean to $10 per bushel on average for the next five years, he said.

    March 25, 2014

  • marestail.jpg Plan now to control marestail in soybeans

    Controlling marestail in soybeans has been a big challenge for Kansas no-till producers in recent years.
    Because soybeans are generally planted later in the season, and marestail generally germinates in the fall or early spring, application timing and weed size are critical factors to successful control.

    March 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Checking alfalfa for winter injury

    In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard many concerns about alfalfa production for this spring.
    Cold temperatures and lack of snow cover are the two main issues producers are worried about for next season’s crop production, as certainly the alfalfa plant could die if exposed to extremely cold temperatures. In general, alfalfa plants can tolerate up to three weeks of winter injury before the plants are killed.

    March 11, 2014

  • soypods.jpg USDA reports on status of GE crops

    Genetically engineered (GE) varieties with pest management traits became commercially available for major crops in 1996.
    More than 15 years later, adoption of these varieties by U.S. farmers is widespread and U.S. consumers eat many products derived from GE crops — including corn-meal, oils, and sugars — largely unaware that these products were derived from GE crops.

    March 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • wheat-head.jpg Everest still leads Kan. wheat acres

    For the second year in a row, a variety of wheat developed by Kansas State University, is the leading variety in Kansas.

    February 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • RickReimer.jpg Innovation, exports fuel soybean demand

    Brent Hayek is revved up about potential new uses for soybeans, and he is piling up the miles to share his enthusiasm.

    February 18, 2014 2 Photos

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Seasonal Content