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Six things on Rick Ostlie's mind

Agriculture.com Staff 03/02/2007 @ 9:03am

Rick Ostlie, a Northwood, North Dakota, farmer, has logged tens of thousands of miles and met with numerous farmers and industry and government chieftains in his role as 2006-2007 American Soybean Association (ASA) president.

So what's on his mind? Here are six points Ostlie made when we caught up with him at the Commodity Classic in Tampa, Florida.

  1. Correcting farm bill inequities for soybeans. "We want a rebalancing of soybean target prices and loan rates," says Ostlie. That's because support prices for soybeans are out of whack compared to other program crops.

    ASA recommends soybean target prices and loan rates for the 2007 Farm Bill be adjusted to the season average prices from 2000-2004. For soybeans, this percentage would establish a $6.85 per bushel target price, up from the current $5.80 per bushel level. The loan rate would be $5.01 per bushel, up from the current $5 per bushel level. Direct payments would remain the current 44 cents per bushel level.

    This change would increase farm program costs by $894 million annually. However, Ostlie says the proposal is getting a good reception on Capitol Hill. "Instead of picking a number out of the sky, the loan rates and target prices are based on an objective number from prices from 2000-2004," he says.

  2. The rush toward more corn acres at soybean's expense. "There will be some loss to soybean acres, but long term, I don't think the soybean industry will keep losing acres," Ostlie says. "The nice thing about soybeans is that is there is more demand for biodiesel, which will use soybean oil.

    "Right now, the high price of corn is driving corn acres," he adds. "If we get a good crop and the price goes down, we will see acres come back to soybeans. Acres will always be driven by the market."

  3. Speaking of biodiesel . . . "It's a superior fuel, better for (diesel) engines, better for injection systems," says Ostlie. "The nice thing about it is it's totally renewable. We aren't sending dollars overseas to the Middle East. Instead, we're helping to spur rural communities in the U.S."

  4. Heart-healthy soybean oils. Ostlie points to products like low-linolenic soybeans and soybean varieties high in Omega-3 oils. "There are a lot of great new products like these coming in the market right now," he says.

    Ostlie foresees soybeans still being a commodity crop for the most part. However, specialty oil soybeans will continue to grow.

  5. Protein pricing. Wheat farmers have received protein premiums for years. That may be coming to soybeans. "There are a couple plants that pay premiums for high protein soybeans," he says.

    Many foreign customers like to buy U.S. soybeans high in protein, and farmers may find themselves receiving premiums for protein-packed soybeans in the future. Should this continue, farmers may include protein potential as a selection factor when picking varieties in the future.

  6. Asian soybean rust. "We've been lucky for past two years," says Ostlie. "Conditions have not been conducive for the spread of rust."

    However, that could change. "We could have some humid, wet years, and wind currents could move it up as far north as North Dakota in just a few weeks," says Ostlie. "If the winds are right, it could be devastating."

    That's why it's important for farmers to stay vigilant for rust, and that funding be available for research to find ways to curb Asian rust.

Rick Ostlie, a Northwood, North Dakota, farmer, has logged tens of thousands of miles and met with numerous farmers and industry and government chieftains in his role as 2006-2007 American Soybean Association (ASA) president.

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