Responding to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, American Soybean Association President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser took the opportunity to highlight several of the association’s priorities and how they compare and contrast with the plans laid out by the President.
“A common theme in Tuesday’s State of the Union address from the President was the concept of finding ways where Republicans and Democrats can work together; policies and priorities on which the two parties share at least some common ground. We are happy to point out that the President need look no further in that effort than the Agricultural Act of 2014 on which the House of Representatives will vote tomorrow,” said Gaesser. “The farm bill is the product of more than three years of collaborative work between Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow and Chairman Lucas and Ranking Members Cochran and Peterson, and represents a bipartisan and bicameral step toward legislation that works not only for farmers and rural Americans, but for our suburban and urban neighbors. As we urge the House and Senate to pass the bill, we also urge President Obama to embrace the farm bill as an example of how both parties can work together to benefit all Americans.
“The President also mentioned several plans designed to create jobs and put Americans to work. While the agricultural community and its related industries put more than 23 million Americans to work every day, there are specific initiatives within our industry that can create even more jobs right away. One is the pair of waterways infrastructure bills passed by the House and Senate and currently in conference. These bills provide critical investment in the locks, dams, river channels and ports that farmers need to move their products to market. We thank the President for mentioning these bills specifically. They are in lock step with the Fix it First initiatives he outlined in last year’s State of the Union, and we encourage Congress to move forward with the conference committee and pass a bill on for the President’s signature.
“The second job creator that the soybean industry in particular can contribute is from the burgeoning biodiesel sector. Biodiesel—the majority of which is made from American soybean oil—creates and supports more than 62,000 jobs, and while the President repeatedly cites a desire to pursue his ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, the policies of his administration tell a different story. The EPA has proposed a potentially devastating cut in the amount of renewable, clean-burning, American biodiesel to be produced under the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014 and 2015. The levels proposed would stifle the growth of biodiesel, a fast-growing industry capable of producing nearly 2 billion gallons annually. If the President is truly committed to all energy options, we encourage him to recognize what soybean farmers already know: biodiesel is a viable and available alternative that helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil, lower greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs.
“Finally, the President has repeatedly emphasized his desire to expand our nation’s trading relationships with both new and existing foreign partners, and Tuesday he noted our record farm exports in his opening remarks. As our nation’s leading farm export, trade is vital to the success of soybean farmers, and we applaud this emphasis from the President. Trade, and agricultural trade specifically, supports more than a million jobs here at home. Trade agreements, like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, into which Japan is being considered for admission, hold great promise for the soybean industry, and we commend the President for recognizing both in his remarks, but also note that these partnerships function only if they are established in such a way that takes into account the nature of our domestic industry and the modern methods and tools with which we farm.
“We certainly echo the President’s call to work together, but we remind him that the issues championed by soybean farmers, including the farm bill, trade, infrastructure and biodiesel, are ones that require—and thankfully enjoy—bipartisan and bicameral support. American agriculture has always been about all of us; Republicans and Democrats, urban and rural, working together to meet the country’s needs. We call on the President, on the House and on the Senate to mirror that cooperation and work with farmers on these and other key issues in the year to come.”