While soybean rust is getting plenty of attention these days, Ron Heck, president, American Soybean Association, says there's more going on than that hot topic. Heck and Dee Vaughn, president, National Corn Growers Association, outlined their top issues during a press briefing at Commodity Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., today.
Heck notes that for soybeans producers there are several top issues in focus for the group. Here are the key issues from ASA and comments by Heck:
Biodiesel: - The association continues to push for tax incentive legislation that will lead to improved consumption of this versatile alternative fuel. Heck notes that he hopes for action either in the transportation bill or in the energy bill this session.
Biobased Initiative: The 2002 Farm Bill calls for government procurement rules that will promote use of biobased products. Heck notes there's a long list of biobased products from soybeans that will fill the bill when the new biobased procurement rules are finished.
Support for livestock industry: In each of its trade initiatives and other actions that it undertakes. "Prosperity in the livestock industry is important, that industry eats our products," Heck points out.
Support for EQIP: The group continues to educate members on the value of EQIP funding and its availability.
Soybean Rust: Heck calls this the hottest issue for the meeting and notes that the industry needs to do what it can to prevent rust from entering the United States. "We know there will be a soybean shortage this summer and we're concerned about supplies for our livestock industry," Heck says. "We know we'll need to have soybean meal imported this year. The danger is from whole soybeans."
Lock and dam improvements: The group continues to lobby for progress on lock and dam improvements for continued global competitiveness.
Research funding: From legume genome research to yield boosting studies, ASA supports efforts to keep U.S. soybeans competitive. Work continues on soybean aphids, soybean cyst nematode and soybean rust resistance.
European biotech labeling rules: The group is working to challenge European Union traceability and tracing rules that are going into effect in April. "These rules are trade distorting," Heck points out.
Soymilk and school lunches: ASA is working to get federal nutrition programs to include soymilk for use by the lactose intolerant.
Corn Growers Set Their Course
The 33,000-plus members of NCGA are working on a wide range of topics and pointing to success too. Vaughn points to record ethanol production levels, which are growing in part because California moved away from MTBE in early 2003, and New York and Connecticut did the same thing in late 2003.
"Combined, California and the East Coast consume between 1.4 and 1.8 billion gallons of ethanol," Vaughn notes. Of course, that could grow further if Congress would take action on the renewable fuels standard (RFS), a measure that's hung up in energy bill wrangling.
NCGA also supports research into new products including polylactic acid - the polymer that can be used in everything from food containers to bedding. Checkoff dollars helped bring PLA along and the group looks for more added-value successes in the future.
Looking forward: NCGA had a task force in 2000 that prepared a report on the Future Structure of Agriculture. The publication "Choices in the Evolution of Corn Belt Agriculture" is a policy document that's been circulating widely to policymakers.
Now, through a grant from Altria Shared Solutions, the second phase of the Future Structure group begins. This time the group will address the recommendations made by the first task force and take into account feedback that's been given for the past two years.
Teaching IRM online: Insect resistance management is a big chore for producers using biotech corn. NCGA has fired up a new online teaching tool - or Learning Center - that will help producers do a better job of managing this technology.
"This is a web-based tool developed with help from the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee," Vaughn says. "We have to step up and acknowledge the need for this training." This multimedia, online tutorial will help corn growers better manage the latest biotech crops including new stacked products, for their operation.
You can check out the IRM Learning Center at www.NCGA.com.
Farm bill spending: Payment limits continue to pop up as a hot topic and on Wednesday Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is expected to again propose the measure and reopen budget talks for the farm bill. "We are sending a letter that asks that the farm bill budget not be reopened at this time," Vaughn says.
Locks and dams: Vaughn took a stronger position on action on this long-standing topic saying that key groups including the carpenters union are lining up with commodity groups to push the lock and dam improvements. The project, which could last up to 20 years, would employ as many as 30,000 people, a boon to those unions. Those kinds of alliances may push the measure forward.
"If Congress will not reinvest in the river system, all corn producers will suffer," Vaughn says.