PHOENIX, Feb. 26, 2015-- American Soybean Association (ASA) President Wade Cowan said the group will “become a more aggressive organization” and work more closely with other farm groups to push for policy and regulatory influence.
Cowan told reporters at the Commodity Classic today in Phoenix that ASA will focus on securing permanent tax extenders important to soybean growers, including the Section 179 deduction for farm equipment and the biodiesel tax credit included in the temporary tax package passed last year.
“We’re going to work on things that are a hindrance to everyone in the agriculture industry,” he added. “And the first is government regulation...that increases costs for producers and consumers”
While this includes curbing the controversial proposed definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, he also said EPA needs to move forward with its review of new uses of 2,4-D and dicamba herbicides. “We’ve used those chemicals effectively for years,” he said.
Ray Gaesser, ASA’s chairman, said the government approval process for new agricultural products has slowed from 12-15 months a decade ago to three or more. “It’s concerning for us and discouraging to our technology providers,” he said.
The ASA leaders also focused on labeling for foods produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), an issue that continues to show up on state ballots and should get lots of attention in Congress this year. Cowan said ASA will promote its view that voluntary GMO labels on food are positive for consumers and more effective than mandatory GMO labels that would cover a majority of packaged food in the grocery story.
“We’ve too long been the organizations that said ‘no,’” he said. “We want to propose a positive outreach, a new dialogue that tells consumers we understand that they want to know what’s in their food.”
He argued that providing government certification for non-GMO foods (that aren’t necessarily organic) will be better for consumers than mandatory GMO labels on foods that might contain ingredients developed through genetic engineering.
“State initiatives s are so widely variant with exceptions that you don’t really know [what’s in your food],” he said. ASA’s outlook fits with a GMO labeling bill proposed in Congress and supported by the Grocery Manufacturers Association that would pre-empt mandatory state labeling laws. Vermont is the only state to pass a law requiring labels on food made with GMO ingredients that does not require similar action from surrounding states.
The soybean leaders also emphasized the need to conclude trade agreements being negotiated with Pacific Rim nations and the European Union and efforts to provide more certainty in export markets.
“International trade is the life blood of our commodity,” said ASA’s first vice president Richard Wilkins.
With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the possibility of expanding trade with Cuba, “We have a lot of trade issues on our plate…We need to get trade promotion authority (TPA) granted.”
TPA, legislation that gives the president the power to negotiate a treaty on which Congress can only vote up or down, is needed for the certainty it gives potential trading partners, Wilkins said.
Outside of those trade negotiations, he chastised China’s approval process for new biotechnology traits as “broken” with “no predictability.”
Gaesser said ASA will continue working on establishing a global low-level presence (LLP) policy for the U.S. and other trading partners like China. LLP refers to the unintended presence of minute amounts of genetically modified material that has been approved in at least one country but not in the country that is importing the product.
In 2013, China stopped taking corn and DDGs – rejecting entire shiploads and causing huge disruptions in the supply chain, claiming the presence of an unapproved Syngenta corn trait in the shiploads.
An LLP policy will allow “farmers to have those new tools so that it can be present in minute amounts and not disrupt trade,” Gaesser said.
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