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

One hundred thirty three 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 3, following conclusion of the annual Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show that drew a record 6,014 attendees.

What follows are some of the most significant additions and modifications covering a variety of important soybean issues.

Trade

ASA supports legislation that would graduate Russia from the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik amendment in order to establish permanent normal trade relations with Russia.  

ASA opposes any proposal to merge the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) with other trade agencies. ASA believes that USTR should remain an independent agency within the Executive Office of the President, focusing on trade negotiations, trade agreements and trade enforcement. 

ASA strongly supports swift implementation of the Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free Trade Agreements.

ASA opposes currency legislation or any action by Congress to unilaterally regulate the value of foreign currencies. ASA believes that currency legislation would create retaliatory actions that would negatively affect soybean trade. Instead, ASA supports an approach by the U.S. that engages the international community in its efforts to address global foreign exchange polices.

Farm bill

ASA supports the following provisions in the 2012 farm bill:

Commodities title

ASA continues to strongly support programs in the 2012 farm bill that provide the greatest possible planting flexibility. Allowing and encouraging producers to respond to market signals rather than government programs has been a cornerstone of the last three farm bills, and enabled U.S. soybean plantings to increase by 15 million acres (nearly 25 percent) between 1995 and 2010. 

ASA recognizes that budget constraints are likely to require restructuring farm programs in the 2012 farm fill. Agriculture should accept its fair share of any required spending reductions, provided they are proportionate with other federal programs and they do not require restructuring of the federal crop insurance program, which is the core safety net for producers of soybeans and other commodities.

ASA developed and supports risk management concepts for the 2012 farm bill as a means to partially offset revenue losses that exceed a specified threshold, while complementing crop insurance.

Payments under a revenue-based program should be commodity-specific, and based on the difference between historical and current-year revenue at the farm level.

While based on current-year production, this approach will have less of an impact on planting decisions and production than a fixed target price program, since any payments would be based on actual revenue losses rather than a decline in prices from fixed support levels. Production agriculture has inherent risks, and properly designed farm policy must not remove all risks. 

Open to other ideas

ASA recognizes that a revenue-based program may not be appropriate for all commodities. ASA is open to supporting an alternative program, provided it does not interfere with the ability of producers to respond to the market or distort planting decisions.

Additionally, programs should be in compliance with the United States’ existing World Trade Organization commitments. Existing conservation compliance provisions should continue as a condition of eligibility for receiving farm program payments.

Conservation Title

ASA supports maintaining and funding programs that encourage effective conservation practices on working lands. ASA supports reducing the cap on acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) as part of any requirement to reduce spending under the 2012 farm bill and to allow U.S. producers to respond to increasing world demand for agricultural commodities.

As CRP contracts expire, we believe the CRP should be targeted to the most environmentally sensitive land and to meet water quality goals. Lands that can be returned to production in an environmentally friendly manner should be returned to productive agricultural use.

Energy Title

ASA supports reauthorization and funding of the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, and the Biobased Market Program in the Energy Title of the 2012 farm bill. ASA recognizes that energy programs do not have baseline funding beyond 2012.

However, the benefits provided by the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program and the Biobased Market Program have been worth their relatively low cost, and warrant their continuation with an increased level of mandatory funding.   

Research Title

ASA supports reauthorization of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to expand competitive research at USDA, as well as reauthorization to maintain research capacity at our land-grant universities. 

Trade Title  

ASA supports reauthorization of the Foreign Market Development (Cooperator) Program and the Market Access Program and continued annual funding of these export promotion programs at $34.5 million and $200 million, respectively. 

Transportation

ASA supports an infrastructure funding framework that allows for public and private investment in the U.S. commercial transportation system to ensure U.S. soybeans and soybean products will be delivered to domestic and international markets in a timely and cost effective manner.

ASA supports legislation to require that all funds collected for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are used for the intended purposes of waterways dredging and port maintenance.

ASA supports expanding the truck weight limits on federal interstate highways to a minimum of 97,000 pounds, provided that there is a 6th axle.

Crop insurance

ASA supports returning moving the Federal Crop Insurance premiums due date be returned to Sep. 30 of each fiscal year. 

ASA strongly urges the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to make sure that one of the appointments to the board of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation have a major financial interest in the production of commodity soybeans. 

Biofuels

ASA supports the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) that reflects the expansion of the renewable fuels industry for biodiesel and ethanol and opposes any changes that would reduce obligations or otherwise negatively impact the biodiesel industry.

Sustainability

ASA supports an aggregate approach to documenting the sustainability of U.S. soybean production. ASA believes U.S. federal and state conservation, environmental and labor laws, and existing U.S. farmer compliance with them, provide assurance that U.S. soybeans are sustainably produced.

Telecommunications

ASA opposes the use of adjacent bandwidth by any company that would compromise the effectiveness of GPS technology for farmers.

Research

ASA supports strategic increases in federal investment in USDA’s Agricultural Research Service National Institute of Food and Agriculture that will benefit soybean producers.