As part of National Agriculture Week, farmer leaders of the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association visited Congress to promote issues important to their industry.

Specifically, the groups discussed agricultural trade with Cuba, funding for infrastructure improvements on the Upper Mississippi River system and the advancement of biofuels.

“It is important to have a united voice on issues affecting the agriculture industry, particularly during National Agriculture Week,” said Darrin Ihnen, NCGA President from South Dakota. “Corn and soybean growers share many of the same priorities and advocating together makes our grassroots efforts twice as strong.”

“Trade, transportation and biofuels are top priorities for a number of agricultural commodities,” said Rob Joslin, an Ohio soybean producer and ASA president. “When soybean and corn farmer leaders advocate our priorities together, we have an even greater chance of being heard on Capitol Hill.”

Both ASA and NCGA strongly support H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, and believe the Cuba embargo works against American farmers. The legislation was introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., in February. The legislation would expand one-way trade with Cuba, eliminate the need to go through third-party banks to conduct agricultural trade, eliminate the payment in advance rule and lift current travel restrictions.

Funding for infrastructure improvements on the Upper Mississippi River system is also important to corn and soybean growers. More than 50 percent of U.S. locks and dams have aged beyond their life cycle and many are crumbling. In addition, many are unable to handle today’s barges that are twice as long as when the system was built in the 1930s. The country’s inland navigation system plays a critical role in the nation’s economy moving more than a billion tons of domestic commerce valued at more than $300 billion per year.

The ASA is encouraging Congress to move quickly to seek agreement on a final bill that will enact a one-year retroactive extension of the biodiesel tax incentive. Expiration of the biodiesel tax incentive last December has essentially caused the production and use of biodiesel in the U.S. to cease and has placed thousands of jobs currently supported by the domestic biodiesel industry in immediate jeopardy.

The NCGA is urging Congress to support a multi-year extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit which is set to expire at the end of 2010. The ethanol industry has experienced robust growth in the past several years and today produces over 10 billion gallons of clean, renewable, domestically produced ethanol. A long-term extension of VEETC would protect tens of thousands of jobs that are a part of the ethanol industry, most being in rural America, during a time of economic struggle.