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Watchdog: Follow the Money

The U.S. spent $35 million trying to grow this crop in Afghanistan

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Watchdog,Agriculture,Afghanistan,Kelly Cohen,Waste and Fraud,Accountability,Follow the Money,SIGAR

Afghans are not fans of the soybean.

Despite warnings of this, the American Soybean Association was given $34.4 million in federal funds in 2009 to try to jumpstart soybean farming in Afghanistan, according to the government watchdog over American work there.

The project was first scrutinized in 2010, when the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction learned the soybean association had failed to determine whether the program was financially sound before approval, the government watchdog said.

The soybean program has not met expectations, and its long-term sustainability is now in doubt, SIGAR said in a new audit made public this week.


SIGAR's John Sopko inspects soybeans at the American-funded processing plant in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.
Research conducted by British international development authorities in 2008 showed that "soybeans were inappropriate for conditions and farming practices in northern Afghanistan," where the program was to be implemented.

"The lessons […] are valuable in that it can strongly advise against any further encouragement of farmers growing soybeans in Afghanistan," the British report said.

However, USDA still gave the soybean association nearly $35 million in commodities, transportation and administrative funds for the "Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal in Afghanistan Initiative," according to SIGAR.

"What is troubling about this particular project is that it appears that many of these problems could reasonably have been foreseen and, therefore, possibly avoided," SIGAR said in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Further investment of U.S. tax dollars in the soybean program should be halted until a "thorough and comprehensive evaluation" of its future sustainability is complete, SIGAR recommended.

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Kelly Cohen

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner

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