The American Soybean Association (ASA) testified Aug. 4 before the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to present ASA's views on international trade issues, including the need for Congress to approve pending Free Trade Agreements, extend Presidential Trade Promotion Authority, and normalize financial relations with Cuba.

"ASA was pleased with the President's commitment to double the value of U.S. exports under the National Export Initiative," said ASA Vice-President Danny Murphy, a soybean producer from Canton, Miss. "Efforts to achieve this goal in the agriculture sector will require Congressional approval of the pending Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama, negotiation of new FTAs with key importing countries, and progress on the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation regional agreement." Murphy added that "delay in approving the Colombia FTA has caused U.S. soybean producers to lose over 50 percent of their market share."

Soybeans are the second largest commodity in the United States in terms of annual acreage and value, with 78 million acres planted and a farm-gate value of $32 billion in 2009. Soybeans and soybean products are the most important U.S. export commodity, with sales exceeding $21 billion last year. This represented over 50 percent of U.S. soybean production and 21 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports in 2009. "As producers of the largest export-dependent commodity, soybean farmers have historically made international trade a top priority," Murphy said.

Murphy also spoke in favor of renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which allows the President to submit trade agreements to Congress for an up-or-down vote, without amendment. "Negotiation of new FTAs will require renewal of TPA, which is a top priority for ASA," Murphy said.

"Action is also needed on legislation to normalize financial relations with Cuba," Murphy said. Cuba imported $284 million worth of U.S. soybeans, meal, oil, livestock products in 2009. "Normalizing financial relations would improve the competitiveness of U.S. soy and livestock product exports to the Cuban market," according to Murphy.

On trade provisions in the 2008 farm bill, Murphy stated that "ASA strongly supports maintaining funding of both the Foreign Market Development Program and Market Access Program at current levels, and increasing funding for these export promotion programs in the 2012 farm bill."