The 133 delegates of the American Soybean Association voted recently to approve a new set of policy resolutions to guide the organization's work in Washington and nationwide for the coming year. Part of the association's annual Commodity Classic, this year's resolutions process included language defending biodiesel's role in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), protecting the privacy of farmer data generated by precision agriculture systems, and reinforcing the crucial role of crop insurance as a risk management tool for farmers, among other items.
With specific regard to biodiesel, ASA reiterated its support of biodiesel in the RFS and again called on the Environmental Protection Agency to release the renewable volume obligation (RVO) levels for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Additionally, ASA took EPA to task for its decision to facilitate imports of Agrentine biodiesel in the form of a resolution supporting domestic biodiesel production over that of our foreign competition.
EPA drew further focus from ASA in a resolution clarifying and underscoring the association's opposition to the controversial Waters of the United States rule under the Clean Water Act. Moving forward, ASA used the resolution to call on EPA to work closely with agricultural groups and the Army Corps of Engineers in any future reimagining of the rule.
"Our resolutions that focus on biodiesel and the Clean Water Act are a direct by-product of an EPA that we believe has lost touch with the realities of American agriculture," said Wade Cowan, ASA's president and a farmer from Brownfield, Texas. "This year, we're going to work with our fellow farm groups and hopefully with EPA toward providing the counsel that the agency needs to ensure these decisions work with farmers, rather than against them."
New to ASA's policy book for 2015 is a resolution that supports the realignment of U.S. international agricultural development programs to fall under USDA's jurisdiction. Such a realignment would enable the Department to focus on increasing the productivity and profitability of small farmers in underdeveloped countries, and to optimize these efforts through research, land grant education and extension, and technology transfer available through USDA's knowledge base.
"We believe that international agricultural assistance programs that focus primarily on agricultural development are best run by the federal agency that has institutional knowledge on these matters, and that's the U.S. Department of Agriculture," said Cowan. "The men and women at USDA know not only how these programs work on the ground in the country of need, but also how they benefit farmers here in the U.S."
Additional resolutions include ASA's firm support of granting trade promotion authority (TPA) to the White House; calling on Congress to pass legislation to extend Section 179 expensing and address future trade-impacting work stoppages like the recent one affecting ports along the west coast; expediting approvals for new biotech traits by USDA-APHIS and wetland determinations by USDA-NRCS; increasing federal highway truck weight limits to 97,000 pounds over six axles; continuing the association's work on GMO labeling legislation and encouraging the Federal Aviation Administration to finalize regulations governing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in agricultural applications.
"This voting delegates process is a great reminder that ASA is a farmer-driven and farmer-focused organization," added Cowan. "We only have our farmers in the room making these policy decisions, and while it's hardly an easy process, it keeps our organization grounded in the policy priorities that help to make farmers more successful."