The American Soybean Association (ASA) has expressed concerns regarding the White House’s 2006 budget proposal for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

ASA has labored hard to work with the U.S. Congress and USDA to create programs in the farm bill that not only work for soybean producers within the specific budget limits provided by Congress, but which also play a critical role in the country’s economy and provide a wide range of benefits to all Americans.

"ASA is concerned that program reductions and/or restructurings could seriously undermine many nutrition, conservation, crop insurance and farm programs that are important to all Americans," said ASA President Neal Bredehoeft, a soybean producer from Alma, Mo.

"Many of these critically important programs already have sustained budget reductions in recent years."

For example, the agricultural appropriations bill is the only appropriations bill to have its 302 (b) allocation reduced in both of the previous two years. These reduced resources, coupled with the need to fund hurricane and other disaster assistance, have necessitated reductions in funding for many discretionary agriculture programs, as well as reductions of $4 billion in mandatory agriculture programs.

"As another example, the nutrition of the nation’s low-income people is still suffering because of the budget cuts of the 1990s," Bredehoeft said. "USDA’s nutrition programs have recently been re-authorized, improving their efficiencies in providing food to the most vulnerable members of our society."

The 2002 farm bill’s conservation provisions already are benefiting the environment as part of the "greenest" farm bill ever enacted. Through the first three years of the 2002 farm bill, farm program costs have been more than $15 billion less than the costs initially projected by the Congressional Budget Office when Congress passed the 2002 bill.

"A budget that requires further cuts or structural weakening in these important programs will put at risk the promising environmental benefits of the bill, and the nutritional health of some of the poorest populations in our country," Bredehoeft said. "In addition, with prices for many major commodities falling sharply from last year, reductions to farm programs would come at precisely the time that these supports are most needed in rural America.

"Submission of the President’s budget is the first step in the budgetary process. ASA will work with the budget-writers in Congress to insure that programs important to soybean farmers are adequately funded," concluded Bredehoeft.