Soybean farming has changed dramatically since 1920. But even then, decisions made on Capitol Hill were having a direct effect on the production and profitability of soybean farmers.

That’s why the American Soybean Association (ASA) was established 90 years ago and continues to be the advocate and grassroots voice of the nation’s soybean farmers when important policy is being discussed and created.

During the past 90 years, ASA has helped the soybean industry grow dramatically. In 1919, only about 1 million bushels of soybeans were produced on 112,826 acres at a value of about $4.5 million.

ASA is proud that the journey for soybean production in the U.S. has led to production of 3.25 billion bushels of soybeans from 76.6 million acres with a value of more than $32 billion.

ASA has helped improve the profitability of soybean farmers in a number of ways. In recent years, ASA fought for biodiesel tax incentives that have improved soybean prices, increasing soybean farmer net returns by more than $2.5 billion over the last four years alone.

ASA also worked to ensure farmer-friendly provisions in the 2008 farm bill. ASA continues to work on trade policy to open new markets for soybeans and soy products and make sure current soy markets stay open — including the Chinese market, which accounted for nearly 60 percent of U.S. soy exports in 2009.

ASA-supported trade agreements have resulted in billions of dollars in sales of soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil as well exports of pork and poultry.

According to Johnny Dodson, ASA president and soybean grower from Tennessee, the job isn’t getting any easier. “Agriculture is under attack from special interest groups, animal rights and environmental activists, and misinformed media,” Dodson said.

“Major climate change, environmental and energy bills are being debated now, and debate over a new farm bill is on the horizon. Soybean research and transportation projects must be funded. And international trade agreements are being negotiated. Soybean farmers have a huge stake in it all — and ASA makes sure their voice is heard.”

ASA leadership is made up of soybean farmers. When ASA testifies in front of a Congressional committee, educates federal and state policy makers and their staffs, or speaks to local or national media, it is soybean farmers doing the talking.

“A huge majority of Americans are generations removed from our nation’s agricultural roots, said Dodson. “Many of them are in positions of power — making policies and decisions that have a profound effect on the profitability of America’s soybean farmers. If we don’t speak up for ourselves, no one else is going to do it for us. That’s what ASA does and the more members we have, the louder and stronger our voice.

“Becoming an ASA member allows farmers to have their voices heard, knowing that someone is protecting their interests in Washington, D.C. and in their state capitol. If soybean farmers believe they need to be heard when policy is being formulated, they need to make the choice to belong to ASA. We’ve been watching the backs of soybean farmers for 90 years and we’re not about to let up now.”

Dodson added that many soybean farmers are under the mistaken impression that they are ASA members because they pay the soybean checkoff. “The soybean checkoff is specifically prohibited by law from influencing policy or lobbying on behalf of soybean farmers,” said Dodson. “While every soybean farmer pays into the checkoff to fund important research and promotion work, ASA’s lobbying and regulatory work for soybean farmers is funded by soybean farmer memberships in ASA. You have to make the choice to belong to the American Soybean Association.”

When soybean farmers join ASA, they also join their state soybean association. ASA has more than 22,500 members. Farmers interested in joining can visit http://www.soygrowers.com or call toll free (800) 688-7692.

From October 2009 through 2010, the American Soybean Association will be celebrating its 90th Anniversary. A variety of historical information, photos, special activities and commemorative items will be presented to recognize this milestone anniversary. BASF is a sponsor of the ASA 90th Anniversary Celebration.