By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Oct. 11 – Along with scores of other groups, the American Soybean Association (ASA) hopes the lame-duck Congress will pass key legislation that has been stalled by partisan gridlock. On Monday, ASA called for quick action in four areas “of critical importance to U.S. soybean farmers and the soy industry” once Congress returns Nov. 15:

  • Extension of the biodiesel tax credit;

  • Estate tax legislation;

  • Passage of the South Korea Free Trade Agreement (and possibly the Colombia and Panama FTAs) to retain and expand U.S. exports to these countries; and,

  • Removal of barriers hindering trade with Cuba.

ASA is urging its members to build grassroots support and buttonhole their members of Congress to “emphasize the need for action on these issues.” Considerable grassroots support may be needed since there has been an effort within Republican ranks to block the passage of any legislation other than extending all the expiring Bush tax cuts and imposing a cap on federal spending. This effort has included securing assurances from two moderate Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), that they will not break ranks to support “the Obama administration agenda.” Accordingly, the lame-duck future could hold more GOP filibusters rather than loosening the Senate logjam.

Among its reasons to press for quick action, ASA explains that:

  • Extension and renewal of the biodiesel tax credit are critical to the economic viability of the industry. Expiration of the biodiesel tax incentive on December 31, 2009, has resulted in lost production and jobs. This situation is likely to worsen if the credit is not reinstated.

  • The biodiesel tax credit is needed to make biodiesel competitive with the entrenched petroleum diesel industry.

  • Biodiesel is a key market for U.S. soybean oil, and has been a key factor in supporting domestic soybean prices in recent years.

  • Biodiesel is the only advanced biofuel commercially produced in the U.S. It reduces our dependence on petroleum, creates jobs, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

  • It is imperative that the biodiesel tax extension be included in legislation that can achieve the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate.

  • The House passed its estate tax bill last December with a $3.5 million exclusion and a 45% tax rate. Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) have introduced legislation that has a $3.5 million exclusion and a 35% tax rate.

  • ASA strongly supports including the Lincoln-Kyl provision in a lame duck tax bill.

  • The Colombia FTA will benefit soybean farmers by immediately eliminating tariffs ranging from 5–20 percent on soybeans, soybean meal and soybean flour, and phase-out the tariffs on soybean oil. U.S. soybean, wheat, corn, and hog farmers have lost market share and sales in Colombia in recent years due to trade agreements that Colombia has signed with Brazil and other countries.

  • The South Korea FTA would provide landmark opportunities for U.S. soy, meat, and poultry exports. The agreement offers immediate duty-free access to U.S. soybeans for crushing and to U.S. soybean meal. And for the first time, producers of U.S. food-grade soybeans would have access to the South Korean market outside an import monopoly. Tariffs on refined soybean oil would be eliminated over 5 years, and tariffs on crude soybean oil would be eliminated over 10 years.

  • The Panama FTA will permanently lock-in duty-free treatment of U.S. exports of soybeans, soybean meal, and crude soybean oil.

  • ASA strongly supports approval of all three FTAs and renewal of Presidential Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which would allow the Administration to negotiate new FTAs with countries that are important markets for U.S. soy and livestock product exports.

  • ASA strongly supports the Cuba trade bill, which would give U.S. soy and livestock product exports an advantage in an important nearby market.

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