American Soybean Association leaders told Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns they plan to ask Congress to focus the Conservation Reserve Program on environmentally sensitive lands, and to reduce the statutory cap of 39.2 million acres, in the 2007 Farm Bill.
ASA leaders met with Johanns at last week's Commodity Classic, the combined convention and trade of the ASA and the National Corn Growers Association.
"World demand for soybean meal and oil is growing rapidly, and acreage available for corn and soybean production is limited, particularly with the expected expansion of ethanol and biodiesel production," says President Bob Metz. "The Conservation Reserve Program includes millions of acres of productive farmland that could be planted to our crops and can be farmed in an environmentally sustainable manner to fill these growing demands."
Metz again stressed the need to address concerns about ongoing World Trade Organization priorities. One concern is that product exemptions from overall tariff cuts could undermine any market access gains for U.S. farmers. ASA also continued to emphasize that countries with world-class exporting sectors, like Brazil, Argentina, and Malaysia, must accept disciplines in all three pillars of the negotiations, similar to developed countries.
"If ASA's concerns are not addressed in the Modalities Agreement, U.S. commodity groups doubt they can be successfully resolved in the bilateral negotiations to follow," says ASA President Bob Metz, a soybean producer from West Browns Valley, S.D.
Follow-up needed on EU biotech moratorium case
ASA also expressed its strong thanks to USDA for all the support it provided that allowed the United States to win the WTO case against the EU moratorium on the approval of new biotech-enhanced crops.
"We must follow-up on this win with two things," Metz says. "First, we must ensure that the EU brings its approval processes and the national bans into conformance with the panel findings. Second, we must move quickly forward with a WTO challenge of the EU's discriminatory and non-science based traceability and labeling regulations for biotech products. These regulations are costing U.S. growers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales to the EU annually."
ASA was one of the 21 trade associations that urged the Administration in November 2003 to initiate a WTO challenge against the EU's traceability and labeling regulations.
"At the request of U.S. Trade Representative, we were asked to wait until the outcome of the moratorium case was known," Metz says. "We've been patient for two and half years, but now is the time to begin moving forward. Secretary Johanns understood the importance of this issue and will be working with us as we press forward."