WASHINGTON, D.C. -- American Soybean Association leaders took soybean grower concerns to Congressional offices this week in Washington, D.C.

Priority issues for soybean growers include proposed 5-percent cuts to farm programs; research programs for soybean rust and aquaculture; as well as an extension to the biodiesel tax incentive and funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation Bioenergy Program at the USDA.

"ASA is championing soybean grower interests in Washington, D.C.," said ASA President Bob Metz, a soybean producer from West Browns Valley, S.D. "There are many diverse issues, ranging from the budget to trade agreements to soybean rust programs, which directly affect the profitability of soybean farms, rural communities and America's overall economy."

On behalf of soybean growers, ASA is asking Congress not to approve the Administration's proposal to cut farm programs by five percent in the FY-2007 Budget Resolution, or to reduce payment limitations. Agriculture gave more than its fair share in reduced spending in the FY-2006 Budget Reconciliation process, ASA leaders said. Another cut would only further reduce the funding baseline for writing the 2007 Farm Bill. In addition, no disaster assistance was provided for 2005 crop losses, and fertilizer and energy prices remain high.

Support of soybean research is also important to the long-term progress of the soybean industry. ASA worked with Congress, which recognized the threat of soybean rust to the entire U.S. agricultural economy, to provide more than $2 million for soybean rust research in FY-2005 and FY-2006. Farmers have invested more than $5 million of their own funds on soybean rust programs and soybean researchers agreed in 2004 to create a national strategic plan of research needs for soybean rust while soybean.

Guided by the strategic plan, the president's FY-2007 budget increases funding for soybean rust research by $1.85 million. The funding will support multiple important research activities, including genetic-resistant plant varieties, predictive technology and disease management strategies.

Another area of new opportunity for soybean growers is in domestic offshore aquaculture, and ASA is working to ensure funding for research. ASA supports full funding for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to support research on plant-based feeds necessary to develop regulatory mechanisms for an offshore aquaculture industry in the United States.

Last year, ASA achieved its top legislative goal when the landmark Energy Bill extended the biodiesel tax incentive to 2008. ASA leaders are now championing a new bill that extends the popular biodiesel tax incentive through the end of 2010.

"Extension of the biodiesel tax incentive is important to soybean farmers and rural economies as well as America's energy security and environment," Metz said.

Even with the tax incentive, biodiesel requires an additional payment from the USDA CCC program in years when the relative prices of soybean oil and petroleum diesel are unfavorable to biodiesel production and commercialization. Funding for the Bioenergy Program has fallen from the authorized level of $150 million to $100 million in FY-2005 and $60 million in FY-2006.

ASA is working to ensure that biodiesel receives no less than the $25 million allocated in FY-2005 in FY-2006. Furthermore, the 2002 Farm Bill eliminates funding authority for the Bioenergy Program in FY-2007. ASA is calling on USDA and Members of Congress to ensure that CCC funds continue to be provided for biodiesel production in FY-2007.

Soyfoods go to Washington, too

Members of Congress and their staffs got a taste Tuesday of why soyfoods are playing an increasing role in healthy diets at the ASA's fourth annual Congressional Soyfoods Lunch on Capitol Hill.

The menu included grilled flank steak marinated in soy sauce and soybean oil (among other ingredients); edamame; soy pasta; a mixed green salad with tofu croutons and spicy roasted black soy beans; a soy dip sampler; chocolate espresso pudding made with vanilla soymilk; oatmeal cranberry soy cookies and soy smoothies and other soy beverages.

Gold Level Sponsors of the Soyfoods Luncheon included Archer Daniels Midland Company; Monsanto Company; QualiSoy; Silk and The Soyfoods Council. The Solae Company was a Silver Level Sponsor.

ASA serves as the collective policy voice of 25,000 U.S. soybean producers on domestic and international issues of importance.

SOURCE: ASA news releases.