Soybean producers gathered in Grapevine, Texas recently to review and revise the policy direction of the American Soybean Association (ASA).

One hundred thirty four producers from ASA’s 25 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, Feb. 28, following conclusion of the Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show. What follows are the most significant additions and modifications covering a variety of important soybean issues.

• Exports: ASA continues to strongly support free trade agreements as adopted without addendums, and supports adopting future trade agreements without social and political requirements being the basis for acceptance.

ASA believes strongly that in-kind food aid remains the most sustainable tool in the food aid toolbox. Local and regional purchases can be a useful tool for addressing global food insecurity, but they should work in coordination with current food aid programs. In-kind donations should remain intact and funding for local purchases should come from the appropriate foreign assistance budget.

• Domestic: ASA recommends increased governmental funding to improve the antiquated information technology system of the Farm Service Agency.

In response to recent proposals by the Obama Administration, the Voting Delegates expressed strong opposition to any efforts to reopen the 2008 farm bill.

ASA supports the reimbursable option for fortified soymilk in the federal school lunch and breakfast programs and urges removal of the current requirement of a doctor’s note.

Regarding qualification for the renewable fuels standard, ASA supports that any policy involving direct and indirect land use metrics be based on sound science and verifiable, transparent data so that biodiesel’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions is accurately assessed.

ASA supports biotechnology, commercial fertilizer, and commercial crop protection products and believes that any definition of "sustainable agriculture" includes the use of these products. ASA supports the statutory definition of sustainable agriculture, as included in the 1990 farm bill.

Under that law, sustainable agriculture means "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long-term satisfy human food and fiber needs; enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends; make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole."

ASA supports the recommendation of the Gulf Coast Fishery Management Council to allow offshore fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico.

ASA will work with our partners to educate consumers that modern animal agriculture production is science-based and provides safeguards for humane treatment of animals. ASA believes that anyone who trespasses or enters property to release livestock or poultry or to damage property in the attempt to halt, destroy or curtail animal production, serum production or research should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. ASA adamantly opposes efforts by the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and other animal rights organizations that attempt to petition or legislate against science tested, modern animal care practices. ASA supports U.S. livestock, aquaculture and poultry organizations that face challenges by individuals or organizations such as the Humane Society of United States with an agenda to diminish or eliminate animal agriculture.

ASA supports changing the federal crop insurance regulations so that once a farmer has filed a claim and has provided all necessary information pertaining to the claim, the insurance company should have no more than 30 days to get a claim processed and paid. After this deadline, the insurance company should be required to pay interest on the outstanding claim until said claim is settled. Also, while that claim is outstanding, the insurance company cannot charge late fees or interest to the farmer’s account for any outstanding premium due for the crop the claim has been filed on.

• Research: ASA is opposed to any local, state or Federal legislation to regulate particulate matter or odor from agriculture operations.

As an entity that will be significantly impacted, ASA should be engaged in federal legislative regulatory efforts to address Climate Change. ASA believes that agriculture should not be subject to greenhouse gas emission caps established in Climate Change legislation or regulation. ASA does not support regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. ASA should look to support viable options to the cap and trade approach to climate change legislation that would address the desired outcomes of that legislation more directly. If a national cap and trade framework is established to address Climate Change, agricultural practices should be eligible as carbon offset.

• Organizational affairs: ASA supports continuation of the national soybean checkoff and encourages soybean farmers to support continuation of the national checkoff program. ASA believes that the national soybean checkoff is an important tool to help soybean farmers develop new uses, conduct production research, and expand domestic and foreign markets.

In the best interest of all soybean farmers who are paying into the checkoff and for the long-term viability of the national soybean checkoff itself, ASA supports USB and its farmer leaders and will strive towards a harmonious working relationship with USB and will endeavor to strengthen the professional relationship with USB that in turn will benefit all U.S. soybean producers.

In the interest of openness and inclusiveness, the ASA Voting Delegates waived the conflict of interest policy and affirmed the eligibility of delegates who also serve as directors on the United Soybean Board by allowing them to vote on motions affecting the national soybean checkoff program. It was also recommended that ASA and USB implement the Coordination Committee as allowable in the Soybean Promotion and Research Checkoff (SPARC) orders.

ASA supports the original intent of the SPARC. However, the Voting Delegates postponed decisions on whether changes should be considered to the national soybean checkoff program until the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General audit and investigation of the national soybean checkoff program is complete.