American Soybean Association officials are supporting the Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2010 budget request for aquaculture research that could increase demand for soybean meal in aquafeed.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking an additional $2 million for aquaculture research, some of which would be spent on studies on life-cycle cost analysis of aquaculture, marine fish hatcheries for stock enhancement, the environmental impacts of escapes from aquaculture, as well as sustainable feeds.

"Soybeans play a key role in building a U.S. aquaculture industry to meet growing consumer demand for safe, healthy seafood," said ASA President Johnny Dodson, a soybean producer from Halls, Tenn. "Soybean meal is a nutritional, high-protein source for aquafeed, free of organic and inorganic contaminants that may be found in fish meal-based feeds."

ASA expressed its support for aquaculture research in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, whose department has oversight of NOAA.

"This funding is critical to NOAA’s research efforts that will help study the potential for aquaculture," Dodson said. "Soybean farmers are working with NOAA and USDA under the auspices of the NOAA-USDA Alternative Feeds Initiative to support a broad spectrum of approaches to better understand marine fish nutrition."

ASA is a world leader in the development of soy-based aquaculture feeds. Since 1992, soybean farmers have supported market development activities, primarily in China, through the American Soybean Association’s International Marketing activities with funding from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and the soybean checkoff. This program has increased demand for soybean meal for farm-raised fish from almost zero to approximately 5.5 million metric tons annually.

Aquaculture is the fastest growing form of food production in the world, and most of this growth is offshore and overseas. Seafood imports are the second biggest contributor to the U.S. trade deficit at over $9 billion per year.

"With increasing seafood demand and declining capture fisheries, global aquaculture production will have to increase by 500 percent by the year 2025 to meet the projected needs of a world population of 8.5 billion people," Dodson said. "We’d like to see the United States capture its share of this growing market."