WASHINGTON (B)--U.S. soybean farmers are suffering from low prices, right along with other major commodity crop producers, and they should get their share--$1.65 billion yearly--of government cash assistance when Congress puts together the next farm bill, the American Soybean Association said March 20. That is the message the group said it will take to the House Agriculture Committee when it testifies March 29.

The Department of Agriculture has been sending out billions of dollars in Agricultural Marketing Transition Act (AMTA) payments to farmers since the current blueprint for U.S. agriculture policy was created in 1996, but soybean farmers have received none of it.

The House Agriculture Committee has already had several hearings on the next farm bill, and ASA wants to make sure lawmakers know their producers do not want to be left out again when it comes to cash payments.

ASA President Tony Anderson, Vice President Bart Ruth, CEO Stephen Censky and Chairman Marc Curtis spoke to reporters March 20 after meeting with USDA Secretary Ann Veneman.

Those cash payments to farmers, whether they are for the original AMTA purpose of helping farmers become more market oriented or just to help cope with chronic low prices and natural disasters, are likely to continue under the next farm bill. The American Soybean Association told reporters today their producers need a $1.65-billion-piece of that.

Furthermore, the ASA officials said they will try to impress upon the House Agriculture Committee next week the importance of not allowing loan rates to drop when the next farm bill is constructed. Specifically, ASA wants the soybean loan rate minimum to be fixed at $5.26 per bushel. That amount is currently the ceiling, with a floor of $4.92.

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