Today Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) is ecstatic to learn from USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack that checkoff funds now can be used for research, information exchange and other efforts in Cuba.
“This is great news. We really appreciate everything Secretary Vilsack and the USDA staff did to make using checkoff dollars in Cuba a reality,” said Daryl Cates, ISG chairman from Columbia, Ill, who visited Cuba as part of a bi-partisan delegation in October 2015. “Cuba is an important market for Illinois soybean farmers and the livestock producers who use our soybeans. It’s vital that we collaborate on exchanging information about our product with Cuban government and industry officials. We look forward to advancing two-way trade with the Cuban people and fostering relationships.”
ISG board members and staff have visited Cuba seven times since 2012. ISG has invested valuable membership dollars to help open up this market, promote Illinois soybeans and to study the Cuban marketplace, culture and people. ISG also has been leading efforts to inform Illinois legislative and business leaders about the economic value of trade with Cuba.
Based on today’s USDA announcement, checkoff funds can now be used for relationship-building and market research activities in Cuba. Checkoff funds will build upon existing efforts and leverage knowledge that helps farmers, agribusinesses and food companies market their products in Cuba.
Soybean checkoff dollars are used to help fund research and promotion efforts. Illinois soybean farmers contribute a portion of their sale proceeds to the checkoff program. Currently, farmers invest 0.5 percent of the net market price for each bushel they sell. Half of these collected funds are retained and administered by the United Soybean Board (USB). The other half is distributed to Qualified State Soybean Boards (QSSBs), like the Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program, to be managed by a board of directors.
“The U.S. faces increasing competition from South America in Cuba and other countries,” said Mike Levin, ISG director of issues management and analysis, who also visited Cuba in October 2015. “Using checkoff funds in Cuba for research and information exchanges will allow Illinois and U.S soybean farmers a better opportunity to compete in this market, which is just 90 miles off the U.S. coast.”
Although the U.S. is currently allowed to export ag products to Cuba, with Illinois exporting the most soybeans, credit policies and the embargo have caused the U.S. to lose market share. It is estimated that at least 20 percent of Cuba’s U.S. corn and soy imports originate from Illinois due to the state’s leading production of those crops, sustainable production and reliable delivery.
Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) is a membership organization serving more than 43,000 Illinois soybean growers. ISG provides advocacy in Springfield and Washington, D.C. to promote the interests of Illinois soybean farmers and programs that enhance soybean production and demand. Voice for Soy, the online action center supported by ISG, allows growers to easily connect with legislators and regulators to advocate for Illinois agriculture. For more information about ISG, visit www.ilsoygrowers.com.
For more information, contact:
Director of Issues Management Analysis
Director of Communications