Secret deals hidden under a soybean pile?


Something strange turned up in Broadcasting Board of Governors’ spending records: more than $4 million for soybean farming.
Dig deeper and records show the funds ostensibly paid for such items as “Aircraft Gunnery Fire Control Components.”
One record lists guns up to 30mm.
All this is difficult to understand, particularly since the BBG’s stated mission is to “inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
The BBG, now called the Agency for Global Media, oversees the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and spends millions of dollars on everything from television broadcasting to video production.
Listing purchases under “soybean farming” could be a way for the BBG to conceal its activity. Or it could be traced to the agency’s shoddy record keeping.
When federal agencies report spending, they record such things as recipient, total amount and item description. They also use a 6-digit code to report the industry of the product or service. The North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS, code for soybean farming is 111110. The code is at the top of the NAICS list. Perhaps agency workers are too lazy to choose the right code and pick that one off the top.
A sampling of BBG transactions from 2002 to 2010 showed $4,204,152 in supposed soybean farming spending.
One supposed bean deal for $750,000 shows this description:


Another record states:


A crop duster flies over a soybean field. Photo: Ken Hammond, U.S. Department of Agriculture

What is that for? Story assignments?
Firms that do business with the federal government are required to have unique nine-digit identifiers, known as DUNS numbers.
But the soybean purchases all show the same generic DUNS number: 123456787.
It is legal for government agencies to report generic DUNS instead of the actual number in certain cases, for instance, “when specific public identification of the contracted party could endanger the mission, contractor, or recipients of the acquired goods or services.” See Subpart 4.6—Contract Reporting.
That just raises more questions. What was the BBG trying to hide? Was was the mission, if any?
For the names of the companies and individuals the BBG may have been trying to shield, see this interactive graphic.

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