Soybean producers from all U.S. soybean growing regions gathered in Tampa, Fla., last week to review and revise the policy direction of the American Soybean Association (ASA).

One hundred thirty two producers from ASA’s 26 state affiliates served 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 5, following conclusion of the annual Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show. What follows are some of the most significant additions and modifications covering a variety of important soybean issues.

Tariffs and trade

ASA strongly supports swift Congressional passage of the pending Colombia, Panama, and South Korea Free Trade Agreements. ASA supports free trade agreements that help to increase soybean and meat exports.

ASA opposes actions by Congress to impose greater tariffs on Chinese products without multi-lateral agreements. ASA believes that unilateral Chinese currency legislation by Congress would create retaliatory actions that would negatively affect soybean trade with China. China purchased more than $9 billion of U.S. soybeans last year and is the number one customer for U.S. soybean exports.

ASA urges the Administration to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the European Union (EU) regarding U.S. compliance with the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) that establishes an actual value for greenhouse gas emissions savings for U.S. soy-based biodiesel that qualifies for EU tax credits and use mandates, and establishes an aggregate approach for certifying that U.S. biodiesel feedstocks were produced in a sustainable manner that meets RED land use requirements.

Market Access Program

ASA supports continuation of the Market Access Program (MAP) at current levels, or above, which will continue to increase U.S. agricultural exports, secure new and current markets, and the Administration’s export goals under the National Export Initiative. MAP and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) cooperator program represent some of the highest returns on investment for soybean producers and should remain a high priority in the next farm bill.

Domestic policy

ASA supports individual freedom and private initiative through the competitive enterprise system. ASA supports achieving a balanced federal budget and reducing the national debt through a comprehensive approach to deficit reduction that includes all entitlement programs and discretionary spending. Reductions in the cost of agriculture-related programs should not be disproportionate.

ASA will support a soybean program that assists farmers to better manage risk.

ASA strongly supports extension of the federal biodiesel tax credit for 2012 and beyond. ASA supports restructuring the biodiesel tax credit from a blenders credit to a production credit.

ASA urges the Census Bureau or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue monthly reporting on U.S. soybean crush, oil and meal extraction rates, and soybean oil used in biodiesel production as is currently reported in the Current Industrial Report.

ASA opposes the proposed livestock rules under USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), which regulates livestock and poultry contracts and marketing practices as issued June 22, 2010.

Transportation infrastructure

ASA supports enactment of the Capital Development Plan drafted by the Inland Waterways User Board and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate infrastructure improvements on U.S. river systems, improve management of the projects, and provide additional funding.

ASA strongly urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congress to take actions necessary to ensure that sufficient funding is provided for dredging the Mississippi River to maintain the maximum authorized navigable depth to ensure the free movement of soybeans and soybean product domestically and internationally.

Conservation, environment, research, and bio-based products

ASA supports legislation that mandates greater oversight of regulatory agencies by Congressional bodies.

ASA strongly opposes any effort by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or judicial ruling to regulate dust whether from crop or livestock production as a pollutant.

ASA urges the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement consistent guidelines regarding the interpretation and determination of a wetland designation across county lines.

ASA believes that it is critical that USDA, the EPA, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) operate a timely, efficient, predictable, and science based regulatory system for deregulation of new biotech traits.

ASA encourages that soybean research be expanded as every dollar spent on research and development generates a $10-benefit to farmers, which ultimately flows to the consumer in maintaining affordable, healthy and abundant food.

ASA encourages all state entities, including colleges and universities, to purchase bio-based products when they are readily available, of equal or better quality and do not cost significantly more than the traditional product.

The voting delegates also expressed support for the new United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and Common Ground programs being developed at the National level. ASA is a founding member of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

ASA represents all U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international issues of importance to the soybean industry. ASA’s advocacy efforts are made possible through the voluntary membership in ASA by over 21,000 farmers in 31 states where soybeans are grown.