ASA Highlights Soy Elements of White House Budget, Pledges Renewed Defense of Crop InsuranceWed, 10 Feb 2016 11:33:25 CST
The American Soybean Association (ASA) took a hard look at the budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 issued this morning from President Barack Obama. The association expressed strong opposition to a proposed $18 billion cut to crop insurance and a lack of funding for infrastructure improvements. ASA noted the budget contains funding for multiple soybean farmer priorities, including increased resources for oversight at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and full funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program.
“We once again find ourselves fighting attempts to cut crop insurance,” said Richard Wilkins, ASA President and a farmer from Greenwood, Del. “Our policy has always been that we will strongly and absolutely oppose any attempt to target farm bill programs for additional cuts, and it goes without saying that we will continue to fight proposed cuts to the farm safety net. All it takes is a quick glance around the farm economy to see that we need a stronger safety net for our farmers, not a weaker one.”
Wilkins also pointed out the association’s disapproval in the budget’s 22 percent cut to funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the maintenance and construction of locks and dams on the nation’s waterways. Specifically, the budget cuts more than 41 percent from the Corps’ construction account, $2.7 billion from the operations and maintenance account, and fails to fund the Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), a priority for ASA.
“We’re disappointed with this budget’s neglect of investments in waterways infrastructure, which is vital to rural economies as it is a means of efficient transportation of soybeans and a key component of our global competitiveness in export markets,” said Wilkins. “Infrastructure investments should not be limited to highways, mass transit, and high speed rail, but should include those aspects important to rural America too. ASA will continue to work with industry partners and Congress to build on the successful increases in investments achieved in FY16 Appropriations for our ports and waterways operations & maintenance and infrastructure improvements.”
While noting the association’s displeasure in the infrastructure and crop insurance provisions in the budget, Wilkins did point out several areas in which the budget addressed and increased funding for farmer priorities.
“Clearly we absolutely oppose any cut to crop insurance, and the proposed hobbling of the Corps funding, but there is plenty in the president’s budget that we support, including $330 million in funding for commodity market oversight at the CFTC,” said Wilkins. “Market integrity is not front-of-mind until something goes wrong, and adequate resources for oversight of futures markets are an important priority for farmers.”
The budget’s continued funding for programs that promote trade with both emerged and developing markets is also something ASA welcomed, and Wilkins said the association will fight for in future budgets.
“The MAP and FMD programs are an essential part of our industry’s work to establish and expand the beachhead for American soybeans in foreign markets,” he said. “That money helps to fund valuable research and market development work by the U.S. Soybean Export Council, which translates directly into increased exports and revenue for American soybean farmers.”
From a legislative standpoint, the president’s budget is a non-starter in an election year and with a Republican-controlled Congress, however Wilkins said the release of the budget can start a productive conversation on the importance of funding many of the programs critical for soybean farmers.
“Every year, we bring the same funding fight down to the wire in November and December. Party leaders hold one another’s feet to the fire, and at the eleventh hour we manage to eke out funding for programs that are essential to farmer success,” said Wilkins. “Regardless of the long-term prospects of this specific proposal, let’s use it to at least start a discussion about how important these programs are to farmers, and how we get them funded for the coming year.”
“That work has to start with farmers,” added Wilkins. “We need to turn up our volume and increase our face-time with lawmakers so that they understand these programs aren’t simply line items on a budget, but real, working tools that help us operate more successfully.”
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