Soybean producers gathered in Austin, Texas, recently to review and revise the policy direction of the American Soybean Association (ASA). Soybean producers from production areas across the United States participated 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 in conjunction with the tenth annual Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show.

"The delegates called for policies that will enhance demand for U.S. soybeans and soy products both domestically and internationally," said ASA President Neal Bredehoeft, a soybean producer from Alma, Mo. "Delegates voted in opposition to any effort to reopen the 2002 farm bill. Delegates also expressed support for trade agreements that expand market access for U.S. soy and livestock products, and expressed concern about the spread of avian flu.

Other significant additions and modifications covered issues involving crop insurance and a comprehensive monitoring system for Asian soybean rust, a permanent extension of the biodiesel tax incentive, and new language on ASA policies on biotech-enhanced crops.

ASA opposes any effort to reduce agriculture spending or reopen the farm bill. Delegates reaffirmed their opposition to limitations on or means testing for farm program payments, as well as opposition to provisions that would restrict eligibility for marketing loan gains or Loan Deficiency Payments (LDP’s). ASA supports current payment limits as written in the 2002 farm bill.

ASA supports permanent extension of the biodiesel tax incentive at the existing levels of $1 for agri-biodiesel and fifty cents for bio-diesel. ASA supports full funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation’s (CCC) Bio-energy Program and the Bio-diesel Education Program as established in the 2002 farm bill.

ASA supports Federal and state requirements of 2 percent or higher bio-diesel blended fuels, and encourages labeling at the fuel pump whenever bio-diesel is present at levels of 2 percent or higher. ASA also supports advancing Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) that reflects the expansion of the renewable fuels industry for bio-diesel and ethanol.

ASA supports implementation and funding of a national strategy that will monitor and communicate the detection and latest information regarding domestic occurrences and treatment of Asian Soybean Rust disease including, but not limited to, scouting soybeans and other host plants, developing research and bio-security requirements within the U.S. if allowed outside of USDA’s facilities at Fort Detrick, Md., and establishing and funding a sampling program.

ASA supports that all losses due to soybean rust should be covered under a crop insurance contract if a producer buys crop insurance and follows good farming practices. ASA encourages producers to stay in close contact with their crop insurance agents to understand what is expected for control of soybean rust, to maintain documentation of treatments and scouting, and to act in good faith.

ASA supports a close working relationship with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) to help develop procedures for soybean rust coverage.

In the area of crop insurance for value-added soy production, ASA urges the RMA to develop a revenue product for growers of specialty soybeans. This product would recognize the relationship between reduced yield, premiums and the need to maintain a farm’s Actual Production History (APH) should regular commodity soybeans be grown in the future.

ASA supports passage of legislation that would allow for an immediate start of pre-engineering design (PED) for Locks and Dams 20-25 on the Upper Mississippi and the locks located at Peoria and LaGrange on the Illinois River as stated in Senate Legislation (S.2773), from the 108th Congress, to be included in the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

ASA strongly supports ratification of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). This agreement benefits U.S. soybean producers by eliminating tariffs on all soybean products, and by providing meaningful access to Central American markets for U.S. pork and poultry products. ASA strongly opposes any product exclusions from Free Trade Agreements (FTA) on the grounds that they serve as negative precedents for countries seeking to exclude soy or livestock products.

ASA opposes a tax or tariff on feeder pigs coming from Canada because the ASA believes this policy causes an increase in production costs for the domestic pork producer and is detrimental to the consumption of soy meal in the United States. ASA urges the Department of Commerce to reconsider the imposed tariffs on imports of feeder pigs from Canada. ASA supports voluntary country of origin labeling.

ASA also urges the Federal Government to take every possible action to prevent and mitigate the impact of avian flu. ASA is extremely concerned with the spread of avian flu and with the prospect this disease could become an epidemic in global poultry and human population.

Regarding food aid policy, ASA opposes any shift from programming U.S. farm commodities towards cash grant humanitarian assistance.

ASA encourages Congress and the Administration to work to ensure that the European Union food traceability law, U.S. seed companies and shipper’s contracts not transfer financial liability onto U.S. producers as a result of grain shipments containing unapproved biotech-enhanced traits.

ASA delegates approved significant new language in the area of biotechnology. ASA continues to strongly support the development and commercialization in the U.S. marketplace of new biotech soybean products.

For new biotech soybean products intended for domestic food or feed use, ASA expects biotech and seed companies to obtain full food, feed, and environmental regulatory clearances from U.S. regulatory agencies before a new biotech product is commercialized, and until such clearances are obtained, institute the strict controls necessary to ensure that the new biotech product is kept completely out of all domestic and export food, feed, and planting seed channels.

For new biotech soybean products with industrial or pharmaceutical properties, ASA encourages biotech and seed companies to comply with all relevant regulatory requirements and ensure that such products are kept completely out of all domestic and export food, feed, and planting seed channels.

ASA encourages biotechnology and seed companies to apply for international regulatory clearances on a timely basis in all significant U.S. soy export markets that have biotech approval processes, and to do so well before the new biotech product is commercialized in the U.S. market. ASA is calling for implementation of a comprehensive "marketplace acceptance" strategy at least one, and preferably two-to-three years before the products are commercialized. ASA pledges to work closely with biotechnology and seed companies to help obtain both regulatory and marketplace acceptance of new biotech soybeans.

While ASA will actively support the efforts of biotechnology and seed companies to obtain regulatory clearances in significant U.S. export markets, ASA is urging that new soybean biotech products not be commercialized in countries that have weak intellectual property protection laws unless a system is implemented to obtain appropriate compensation of the value created by the technology.

ASA delegates voiced their support for the original intent of the Soybean Promotion and Research Checkoff (SPARC), and a soybean checkoff that fulfills the vision, purpose and goals presented in the initial legislative efforts that established the national soybean checkoff program. Toward this end, ASA delegates called for an independent study of the impact and effectiveness of the national soybean checkoff program, including compliance with the Act and Order.

ASA reaffirmed its commitment towards a harmonious working relationship with the United Soybean Board (USB) that will benefit all U.S. soybean producers.