The American Soybean Association is urging Congress to pass and President Bush to sign the “Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.”

The new farm bill will provide a basic safety net for farmers, support for energy and conservation programs, and funding for nutrition programs that provides food assistance for the poor, through 2012. Congress is expected to vote on the bill later this week.

In reviewing the various titles of the farm bill, John Hoffman, ASA president and a soybean farmer from Waterloo, Iowa, pointed out that “over two-thirds of the funding in the legislation is devoted to the food stamp program and other nutrition initiatives, while 9 percent is reserved for conservation, 14 percent to provide a safety net for farmers, with the remaining 10 percent spent on energy initiatives, rural development, research, trade promotion, international food assistance, crop insurance, and other priorities. So this legislation really is a food, conservation, and energy bill.”

ASA is pleased that the bill addresses many of the priorities advanced by the association, including providing a more equitable safety net for soybean producers, funding a biodiesel production incentive program, authorizing cost-sharing for the production of soybeans with improved oil traits, reauthorizing and funding a biodiesel education program, providing increased funding for conservation stewardship on working lands, and allowing some non-environmentally sensitive land that is in the Conservation Reserve Program to return to production to meet food, feed, and fuel needs.

“We applaud the decision by Congress to increase the soybean target price from $5.80 per bushel to $6 per bushel,” Hoffman stated. “Raising the soybean target price to a more equitable level has been a top ASA priority for the 2008 farm bill. If soybean prices remain high, as they are now, we may never need this safety net, but farmers will have this reassurance in the event prices fall in the future.”

Among its many provisions, the farm bill reauthorizes the Commodity Credit Corporation Bioenergy Program, a key legislative priority for the U.S. soybean industry. The $300 million provided for the CCC Bioenergy Program will make domestic biodiesel more competitive with petroleum diesel and imported biodiesel. The program will bring some stability to the industry so that domestically produced biodiesel can continue to add to the nation’s fuel supply.

The farm bill also authorizes a Quality Incentive Program to promote increased production of high-stability soybeans and other oilseeds to replace trans fats in food products. This initiative has also been an ASA priority in the farm bill debate.

“In addition to these provisions, ASA looks forward to implementation of the Average Crop Revenue Election program,” Hoffman stated. “This alternative to the traditional farm program would compensate producers when both state and farm income fall below recent average revenue levels. Soybean farmers welcome the option of enrolling under this new program.”