Farmer leaders from the American Soybean Association (ASA) met last week with officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to relay the association's critical policy priorities to the administration of President Barack Obama for the coming year.
ASA Chairman Steve Wellman and First Vice President Ray Gaesser met Wednesday, Jan. 30, with Krysta Harden, chief of staff to Secretary Tom Vilsack. During the meeting, ASA congratulated Secretary Vilsack on his reappointment to a second term in the Obama Administration, highlighting the association's excellent relationship with the secretary and his staff. ASA also thanked the Secretary's office for its commitment to biodiesel and biobased products, and USDA's decision to use FY-2012 funds to keep the Foreign Market Development and Market Access Programs operating until the farm bill extension passed as part of the package to avert the "fiscal cliff".
ASA also expressed its appreciation for the Obama Administration's efforts to address asynchronous approvals of biotech traits in the Chinese market, as well as USDA-APHIS' commitment to streamline the deregulation process. At the same time, ASA expressed concern about the length of time a number of new soybean traits have been under review, and encouraged APHIS to accelerate these deregulations as well.
"Wednesday's meeting gave us a venue to discuss a host of issues that will impact soybean farmers in the coming year, and the Secretary's office has provided a receptive ear to our concerns," said Gaesser. "Our concerns regarding the biotech approvals process, trade issues, the farm bill and renewable energy issues were well received, and we are confident that we will continue to have a strong partner in the USDA in the administration's second term."
On Thursday afternoon, Jan. 31, ASA President Danny Murphy joined Wellman and Gaesser for a meeting with EPA officials, including the directors and acting directors of the agency's Registration Division (RD), Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFED), and Biological and Economic Analysis Division (BEAD) to address the need for new herbicide tolerant crop technologies to prevent and manage weed resistance. Currently, EPA approves label and maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticides used on new herbicide tolerant crops.
"Farmers need timely action from EPA on these issues because we need these new technologies to prevent and manage weed resistance, and to produce abundant food for the U.S. and abroad," said Murphy. "Farmers have experience in managing the application of different chemistries and following label requirements, and during our meeting Thursday, we were able to convey those abilities to EPA."
"We are very appreciative of the ability to meet with leaders at USDA and EPA," added Murphy. "Their candor and readiness to exchange ideas provides us with a great deal of confidence in our ability to work productively together in the coming year."
ASA represents all U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international issues of importance to the soybean industry. ASA's advocacy efforts are made possible through voluntary farmer membership by farmers in 30 states where soybeans are grown.