ST. LOUIS -- The American Soybean Association and 15 other U.S. agricultural commodity producer groups have issued a letter with their concerns on critical issues they say must be addressed for World Trade Organization talks to be successful.

The letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns emphasized farmers' and ranchers' top concerns during the current phase of the negotiations.

First, the groups stated that meaningful market access gains must be achieved for each of their export commodities, and that these gains must not be undercut by allowing countries to designate them as Sensitive Products or Special Products, or through the Special Safeguard Mechanism.

Second, the groups asked that developing countries with world-class export sectors face disciplines similar to those required of developed countries.

"We believe the current modalities phase of the negotiations, when the largest overall trade-offs are being negotiated, offers perhaps the best chance of achieving our objectives on these critical issues," the groups stated. "Unless these issues are addressed through specific measures in the modalities agreement, we are concerned that it may be impossible to successfully resolve them in the subsequent bilateral phase of negotiations."

"On behalf of U.S. soybean growers, ASA is challenging the administration to attain a comprehensive modalities agreement in the WTO negotiations," said ASA President Bob Metz, a soybean producer from West Browns Valley, S.D. "Addressing these critical issues in the next few months is key to the successful conclusion of the overall Doha Round."

Organizations that signed the letter include: ASA, American Sugar Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Sorghum Producers, U.S. Canola Association, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, USA Rice Federation, U.S. Rice Producers Association and Wheat Export Trade Education Committee.

"Our producers very much support reaching a final Doha Round agreement that continues the vital task of expanding world trade in agricultural commodities and products," the groups stated in the letter.

"But a final agreement must require developing as well as developed countries to open key markets to U.S. agricultural exports without unfair or wholesale exemptions and restrictions. And it must bring the competitive export sectors of developing countries under disciplines similar to those our producers and industries face."

ASA serves as the collective policy voice of 25,000 U.S. soybean producer-members on national issues important to U.S. soybean farmers.

SOURCE: ASA news release.