Article Archives
Your Checkoff Dollars At Work

Monday, April 1, 2013
filed under: Marketing/Risk Management

Ever wonder where your checkoff dollars go? How are they spent? What is the National Sunflower Association, and what does it do besides bring you the magazine that you’re now holding?

Back in the early 1980s, the National Sunflower Association (NSA) was created in order to have one central voice for sunflower. The organizers put together a grower and industry membership organization that brought ideas and funding from all sources into one association. Through lots of cooperation among producers, industry and our government partners, the NSA works together for the betterment of the sunflower industry. Working together allows for good planning and getting the most bang for the buck. Our overarching goal is to make sunflower a profitable crop for all involved in the industry.

The NSA Board of Directors consists of 13 sunflower producers and five industry members. They are the guiding force that sets the direction for the organization. Representation on the NSA Board of Directors relates to the amount of contributions from each checkoff council/ commission. Each checkoff state and industry group participating in an assessment has representation on the NSA board.

Checkoff councils/commissions from North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado and Minnesota now participate in the NSA, with 50% or more of each state group’s annual revenue directed to the NSA. Those funds are enhanced with industry assessments of the oilseed crushing plants, the confection processing plants and the hybrid seed companies. The NSA is able to expand that income even further with other grants, including a market development grant from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. All in all, every dollar coming into the NSA grows exponentially at least 10-fold.

The National Sunflower Association’s 2012/13 budget includes the following:

Anticipated Revenues:

• North Dakota Oilseed Council — $400,000

• South Dakota Oilseed Council — $189,700

• Kansas Sunflower Commission — $24,800

• Minnesota Sunflower Council — $15,000

• Colorado Sunflower Administrative Committee — $8,100

• High Plains Committee — $31,000

• Oilseed Crushers — $66,500

• Confection Processors — $98,500

• Hybrid Seed Companies — $39,500

• Advertising/Subscription Sales for The Sunflower — $180,000

• USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Grants — $1,600,000

• Other — $277,000

Total Revenue: $2,930,100

Anticipated Expenditures:

• Salaries/Benefits — $254,400

• Production Research — $500,000

• Crop Protection — $35,000

• Domestic Promotion — $144,000

• Foreign Market Development — $1,600,000

• Publications & Grower Information — $240,000

• Office & Related Costs — $47,575

• Travel — $45,000

• Washington, D.C. Representation* — $90,000

Total Expenditures: $ 2,955,975

* No grower checkoff dollars are used for Washington representation.

Keeping in mind the goal of making sunflower a profitable crop for all involved in the industry, checkoff, industry and grant dollars are spent in the following areas:

• Production Research — The National Sunflower Association provides grants to public researchers to stimulate new or additional work that may result in lower production costs, increased quality and higher yields. The four key research areas are: production issues, disease, insects and weed control. Resolving Sclerotinia continues to be a high priority.

The NSA, in conjunction with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and hybrid sunflower seed companies, established the National Sunflower Association Sunflower SNP Consortium. The consortium will help plant breeders create new sunflower hybrids as quickly as possible through the application of state-of-the-art marker-assisted breeding technology. Application of this technology will give plant breeders new tools to develop hybrids resistant to such perennial diseases as rust, downy mildew, powdery mildew and Sclerotinia more quickly and with much greater precision than what is possible using traditional plant breeding methods. This technology also can be used to capture specific oil traits, insect resistance and yield enhancing traits.

Crop Protection — This is an ongoing process, with the NSA participating in residue trials to accelerate the chemical registration process. This includes attending the annual IR-4 meeting which prioritizes labeling for minor crops or a minor use on a major crop; and working with crop protection companies and university personnel to determine efficacy of new products to establish possible new labels. Many of the sunflower herbicide registrations in the last 10 years — including Spartan®, Beyond® and Express® — were partially financed by the NSA.

The NSA is currently working with USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services on the bird repellent Anthraquinone. This product has been tested under cages for two successive years, and the results look very promising for repelling birds. NSA will work with USDA to conduct large field-scale efficacy to determine application rates, timing and overall efficacy.

Recently, NSA was able to get approval for IR-4 funds to be used for Pyroxasulfone for field trials, lab residue tests and assistance to accelerate the registration process at EPA. Pyroxasulfone herbicide has utility in conventional, Clearfield or ExpressSun sunflower production systems to achieve greater weed control than currently exists. It has a mode of action in which no major crop weeds have developed resistance and it works well in a tank mix with Spartan.

• Domestic Promotion — NSA works closely with our member companies, especially those smaller companies that need more assistance finding domestic customers. We continue to use our website, Facebook and YouTube to provide more interactive opportunities for consumers.

NSA works to improve awareness and educate food processors about the favorable characteristics of sunflower oil for use as food processing oil. We also spend time promoting kernel usage to domestic buyers in order to promote the functionality and flexibility of using kernel as an ingredient in food products.

On the oil side, approximately 80% of sunflower oil produced in the U.S. is now sold domestically. This is a change from the past when the same percentage was exported. The shift from export to more domestic sales is a direct result of the industry switch to NuSun and high-oleic sunflower oil. These oils are tailor-made for the needs of the domestic market and meet consumer demand.

Sunflower kernel consumption is increasing, with 75% of kernel produced in the U.S. consumed domestically, resulting in 39% growth over the past 10 years.

• Foreign Market Development — The NSA continues to be a cooperator with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service for matching dollars in overseas market development. The NSA operates in five countries with an USDA allocation of approximately $1.6 million annually. Canada is the main oil export market targeted with USDA funds. Germany, Mexico, Spain and Turkey are market targets for confection sunflower.

Working with our export partners has resulted in U.S. sunflower oil dominating the Canadian sunflower oil sector with a 75% market share. NSA has worked collaboratively with leading Spanish importers to develop the local market for U.S. confection sunflower products. The United States is the leading supplier to Spain’s confection sunflower import market, with more than a 60% market share, despite increased price competition from our competitors. Over the last 10 years, total U.S. in-shell confection exports to all markets have grown by a whopping 86%.

• Publications & Grower Information — Information is power, and the more you have the better. Thus The Sunflower magazine, NSA website and newsletters continue to be the mainstay of the communications system. NSA provides producers and industry members with access to the latest news and developments concerning sunflower.

The Sunflower magazine is free of charge to all sunflower growers and has a mailing list of nearly 30,000. The magazine has six issues per year.

The website averages more than 50,000 hits a month and is updated daily. Interested individuals can opt into a weekly newsletter sent via email to receive the latest news in the sunflower world.

The NSA conducts the annual Sunflower Research Forum where public researchers present their year’s findings. We also host the annual Summer Seminar for growers and industry members.

So, really what is the NSA? It is “your” NSA working for the producer and the industry for the betterment of the U.S. sunflower industry. We will seek to increase profitability to sunflower producers and the sunflower industry by having aggressive research, expanding sunflower markets, impacting public policy and providing information and education.

Working together we can achieve our common goal of making sunflower a profitable crop for all involved.

— John Sandbakken
return to top of page

   More about Sunflower ►