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ASA Backs Trade, Biodiesel

Soybean farmers repeated their support for trade promotion authority (TPA) for the president at Saturday’s Commodity Classic voting delegates session. It was just a day after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged farmers who back TPA to write Congress. Vilsack also said that every living former ag secretary of both parties, from the Carter Administration on, supports it. 

“Our immediate priority right now is trade promotion authority” says Richard Wilkins, first vice president of the American Soybean Association and head of the ASA policy committee.

TPA is considered essential to finish trade talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a twelve nation trading bloc that includes one of America’s best export customers, Japan. TPA, which every president since Gerald Ford has had, speeds the process of approving or voting down proposed trade agreements in Congress. Nearly all ag groups, including most commodity groups and American Farm Bureau Federation already back TPA.

Asked if the TPP agreement with Asian and South American nations would pass Congress this year if the president has TPA, Wilkins says, “It’s got to happen this year.” That’s because China is also trying to negotiation its own bilateral trade agreements with nations that would be in the TPP. That could put the U.S. at a disadvantage.

ASA also wants low level presence (LLP) allowed for transgenic crops that aren’t approved by U.S. export customers.

“Zero tolerance is not attainable. It’s not practical in a commodity handling system” says Wilkins, who farms near Greenwood, Delaware.

Like most farm and commodity groups, ASA wants the EPA to announce blending obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard “in a timely manner as established by Congress.” The current delay likely has hurt biodiesel even more than corn ethanol. 

ASA also favors switching the biodiesel tax credit from blenders to biodiesel makers, to  “promote and support domestic biodiesel  production.” 

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