Soybean producers gathered in Tampa, Fla., last week to review and revise the policy direction of the American Soybean Association (ASA). Producers from 131 production areas across the United States serve as voting delegates in this annual process that guides the ASA as it pursues future initiatives to improve U.S. soybean farmer profitability.

The voting delegates session was held on Saturday, March 3, following conclusion of the Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show. What follows are the most significant additions and modifications covering a variety of important soybean issues.

• ASA supports the basic structure of the 2002 farm bill, but believes target prices should be adjusted to a minimum of 130 percent of the 2000-2004 Olympic average market prices, and loan rates should be adjusted to a minimum of 95 percent of 2000-2004 Olympic average prices. ASA supports increased baseline funding for the 2007 farm bill.

• ASA strongly supports the Foreign Market Development Cooperator (FMD) Program and that emphasis should be given to the fact that FMD is a cooperative, cost-share program between private industry groups that represent farmers and ranchers and the U.S. Government. ASA urges Congress to fund the FMD Program at a level of not less than $50 million per year. For the Market Access Program (MAP), ASA supports continuation of the program at a level of not less than $325 million per year.

• ASA supports authorization of a biodiesel incentive program in the 2007 farm bill to provide Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) payments to domestic biodiesel producers to offset subsidized foreign biodiesel imports. ASA supports the reauthorization and funding of the Biodiesel Education Program in the 2007 farm bill at $2 million dollars, and legislation requiring producers and distributors of biodiesel products and additives to clearly label the minimum percentage of biodiesel contained by volume in fuels and commercially marketed products.

•ASA supports continued development and widespread usage of biodiesel and ethanol that meet ASTM standards, with attention given to labeling recommendations established by the National Council Weights and Measures, and the National Biodiesel Board.

Because ASA recognizes the immense role that agriculture can play in meeting our nation’s energy needs, it endorses the goal of securing 25 percent of the U.S. energy supply from America’s farms, forests and rangeland by the year 2025. The benefits to the environment, fuel security and the economic stimulus for rural areas justify the sizable investment in a new energy future.

• ASA supports the strict interpretation of renewable diesel as defined in the Energy Act of 2005, and opposes current efforts to allow a new definition of the petroleum refining process as thermal depolymerization, thus allowing the petroleum industry the opportunity to collect a $1 per gallon tax incentive for refining vegetable oils and animal fats into diesel fuel.

• ASA supports the establishment of national fuel quality testing centers. ASA supports the development of technologies to produce additional renewable energy products from soybeans and soybean products (including but not limited to cellulosic ethanol, soymeal derived ethanol or bio-butanol, and hydrogen from soybean sources). ASA encourages the development and usage of technologies addressing cold flow properties in the production of soy biodiesel.

• ASA supports the creation of a Commodity Quality Incentive program (CQIP) and a Healthy Oil incentive that would pay producers an incentive payment to facilitate the introduction of traits that have a value to society as a whole greater than the value chain can initially support.

• ASA supports modifications of Section 1031 of the U.S. Tax Code to minimize non-agricultural inflation factors on rural land values.

• ASA strongly supports Congressional passage of the Columbia, Peru and Panama Free Trade Agreements (FTA), and strongly encourages maintaining Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which gives the President the authority to negotiate future international trade agreements that are subject to an up-or-down vote, but not amendment, in Congress. ASA also strongly supports the elimination of differential export taxes (DET) for oilseeds, oilseed products, and plant-based oil and products.

• ASA supports the Soy Transportation Coalition efforts to address transportation issues affecting the marketing and transport of oilseeds, grains, and their products. In addition, ASA supports pre-engineering design and construction of Locks and Dams 20-25 on the Upper Mississippi and the locks located at Peoria and LaGrange on the Illinois River in the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

ASA’s mission is to increase market opportunities and value for U.S. soybean farmers. The ASA achieves this through domestic and international policy advocacy based on direction set by farmer-members. ASA’s efforts are guided by its commitment to produce food, feed and energy in an environmentally sustainable manner.