Eighty percent of soybean producers believe that policy development, like working with legislators and regulators on issues surrounding biodiesel and the farm bill, is important to their future success, according to a survey conducted by Marketing Horizons Inc., on behalf of the American Soybean Association (ASA).

The survey also showed that more than 80 percent of growers correctly believe ASA works with regulators, legislators and international policymakers on biodiesel, the farm bill, expanding export opportunities and developing farm programs.

"The survey demonstrates that soybean producers understand many of the important functions ASA does on a daily basis," said ASA President John Hoffman, a soybean grower from Waterloo, Iowa. "However, the survey also pointed out some misconceptions that we have begun to focus on as part of a membership campaign that kicks off this month."

For example, 22 percent of growers believe ASA’s funding is solely from the soybean checkoff, while an additional 63 percent of growers believe ASA is funded by the soybean checkoff and membership dues.

"The reality is, ASA’s policy work is funded by its dues-paying members," said Rob Joslin, chair of ASA’s Membership Committee and a soybean grower from Sidney, Ohio. "Policy development and lobbying cannot be funded by soybean checkoff dollars. Strong membership support for ASA and the state soybean associations is critical to our work on behalf of U.S. soybean farmers."

Hoffman said, "While the law prevents soybean checkoff dollars from being used to fund policy work and lobbying, ASA, as a voluntary dues-paying membership organization can, and does, do those things on behalf of soybean farmers.

"It is important to recognize that both ASA and the soybean checkoff provide vital contributions to strengthening and growing the soybean industry," Hoffman continued. "For example, the checkoff funded research to conduct tests on biodiesel, and then ASA worked with Congress and policymakers to create the federal biodiesel tax incentive that has created a growing market for biodiesel. The work of both ASA and the checkoff has been key to the success of biodiesel. We want soybean farmers to understand the importance of providing their voluntary support to ASA."

Since the survey showed there was some confusion among soybean growers regarding the differences between ASA and the soybean checkoff, ASA has launched a campaign that explains the difference and encourages soybean farmers to join their state soybean association, which includes membership in ASA.

"Membership is our lifeblood, which enables our work on Capitol Hill to be successful," Joslin said. "We’re using this campaign to tell soybean farmers that if they believe in the importance of sticking together, working on Capitol Hill, promoting trade and ensuring federal support for biodiesel, then it is important to belong to ASA, because that’s the work we do."

ASA’s education and membership campaign is broad and includes direct mail, print and radio ads and personal contact across the country. The campaign theme "If You Believe, Belong." emphasizes that soybean growers believe the work ASA does is important, and, therefore, they should become a member if they are not already.

Hoffman said, "ASA gets its strength through numbers, through grassroots membership. Growing our membership base helps us be more successful. More importantly, it helps all soybean producers be more successful."

ASA’s education and membership campaign, which continues through this year, was made possible by a grant from Monsanto Co.