During the annual meeting of its voting delegates at last week's Commodity Classic in San Antonio, the farmer members of the American Soybean Association (ASA) plotted the association's policy course for the coming year during the open resolutions process.
This year's delegates tackled multiple hot-button issues, including the use of drones-or unmanned aerial vehicles-in agricultural applications, and the stewardship of massive amounts of data collected by an ever-advancing range of technological solutions on the farm.
"The issues that face our industry change so frequently that we have to be adaptable and flexible," said ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. "This session enables us to keep our finger on the pulse of farmers in each state and adjust our policies so that we are representing our entire membership as effectively as possible."
During the meeting, new resolutions were adopted to call on the Federal Aviation Administration to meet its September 2015 deadline for providing regulations on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in farming operations; as well as to encourage farm groups to work together to set industry standards on the collection, storage and stewardship of the data generated by precision agricultural instruments.
"New technologies have advanced our industry so far in such a short period of time," added Gaesser. "We rely on these solutions, but we also need to establish best practices to ensure the data they generate is managed in such a way that respects personal privacy."
On infrastructure, ASA adopted a resolution calling for the continued maintenance of the waterways that are so critical to soybean farmers, while also formalizing the association's support for new lock and dam construction on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, among other projects.
With respect to interstate commerce, ASA's farmer leaders reiterated the association's opposition to piecemeal state labeling laws governing foods with genetically-modified ingredients and reaffirmed their support for a national legislative solution that would prevent such a patchwork of state legislation. Also, the delegates adopted a resolution opposing state legislation on crop and livestock protection that are more stringent than those at the federal level.
"We believe that federal legislation, whether it governs biotech foods or animal agriculture, is a far better option than an uneven and inconsistent framework of state laws that may conflict with or even contradict one another," said Gaesser.
Additionally, ASA used the process to again call on FDA to alter its proposal to remove the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status for partially hydrogenated oils and instead consider other approaches to reduce trans fats. ASA also lent its support to the sustainability best practices outlined in the 25x25 Adaptation Initiative; and called for the timely determination of the FSA Form 1026 process, which governs lands enrolled in wetlands protection and highly-erodible lands programs.
Finally, ASA delegates expressed their support for the 2014 Farm Bill and called upon USDA to implement its provisions in a timely manner.
"The resolutions process is one that really defines ASA as a farmer-led, farmer-focused organization," said Gaesser. "These resolutions come to us from the farm level-from farmers who, through their experience, realize what an impact each of these issues can have. This gives us quite a to-do list, but we're determined to make progress on each issue."