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Iowa Soybean Association backs innovation

05/18/2007 @ 3:02pm

Recently the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA) made favorable comments about some of the ideas of the Iowa Soybean Association for the next farm bill.

Just what is the group promoting?

A lot of things. And they include innovation as well as resistance to cutting overall support to the safety net in commodity programs. After attending a signing ceremony by Chinese buyers of soybeans in Des Moines, Iowa this week, the group's president, Ray Gaesser, took a few minutes to recap major goals of the group.

"The Soybean Association has always been very forward thinking and pro-active on environmental issues," Gaesser told Agriculture Online.

For example, the group has been conducting on-farm research on using fertilizer more efficiently, a win for both the environment and farmers' financial bottom line.

The Iowa group supports creation of a targeted Regional Water Enhancement Program that would allow farmers to work with others in partnership and cooperation projects. And it would like to see work that would focus on nitrogen loss in the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

Also in conservation, the group supports allowing up to 7 million acres of less environmentally sensitive land in the U.S. to come out of the conservation reserve program (CRP). At the same time it backs putting more money into the conservation security program to help protect that land as it comes into production for food and fuel.

Another "big goal for us is maintaining support for the biodiesel industry," Gaesser said.

For example, his group supports a biodiesel incentive program in the next farm bill that would offset tax incentives that competing nations such as Argentina provide for biodiesel. Based on Argentina's support and current soybean oil prices, that incentive would be about 48 cents per gallon.

The group is a strong supporter of the commodity program safety net and opposes further cuts in that part of the farm bill.

"Unless there's an agreement in the World Trade Organization, we're not willing to step forward and give up anything else," Gaesser said.

That's because in 30 developed countries in the world, average government support for farmrs is 29% of their revenue. But in the U.S., it averages only 16%, Gaesser said.

Like the American Soybean Association, the Iowa members of that group favor rebalancing commodity programs to provide higher countercyclical payments. Both groups favor raising the soybean target price from the current $5.80-per-bushel to $6.85.

The group doesn't mind taking some funds from current direct payment programs for other things -- up to a point.

"There's a lot of talk about offsetting funds for other programs and our thoughts on that are that if we are going to target direct payments, then that money should be put toward a revenue type product, or if the farmer doesn't want to use that income he could use that money toward a savings program," Gaesser said.

That doesn't mean the group supports the National Corn Growers' revenue program that is similar to Group Risk Income Protection (GRIP) crop insurance. Instead, if favors using direct payment funds for "risk management vouchers for farmers that could be used only for crop insurance purposes or farm retirement accounts."

Given Harkin's positive reaction to this idea, "it may have some legs," Gaesser said.

Recently the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA) made favorable comments about some of the ideas of the Iowa Soybean Association for the next farm bill.