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Column on marketing loan revives memories

The Oct. 28 Issues column about the American Soybean Association's change of heart on the marketing loan stirred memories. It traced the ASA delegate body's metamorphosis on the marketing loan and speculated about proponents of stricter payment limits one day having a similar epiphany.

The analogy prompted an e-mail from former Soybean Association President James Lee Adams, a Camilla, Ga., grower who frequently found himself at odds with Midwestern farmers over such issues as the marketing loan.

“You recall correctly the resistance of the Midwestern farmers to marketing loans,” Adams wrote. “Prior to the time I was ASA president (1988-99), we wrangled a concession from farmers in that area to propose a ‘minor’ marketing loan — the ill-fated ‘FAIR’ proposal in the 1985 farm bill.

“Essentially, it was killed by one of the state Farm Bureaus and its congressional delegation. (There was an article in their state publications saying, ‘ASA asks for $.50 per acre payment’ — we actually asked for $50 per acre.) We knew we were getting killed in the soybean industry by not being a program crop and by the fact that the $5.02 per bushel loan rate put a floor under Brazil and Argentina.”

Adams recalls that ASA finally got the marketing loan in the 1990 farm bill — over opposition from wheat growers who said it was trying to cannibalize other programs — and achieved some parity with other crops in the 1996 law.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the leading proponent of lower payment limits, is also myopic, Adams said. “Not only do his farmers receive more payment dollars than any other state, but if he succeeds in killing the cotton program with too restrictive payment limits, he will take the Southern senators off the table as far as supporting future farm bills.

“No one wants animal operations in the backyard, and this, coupled with the demise of the feed grain program, will also lead to the export of all large scale agriculture southward. And I don't mean the Gulf states — it will go much further south.”

Adams says he has retired from active farming, but his family remains in the broiler business. (A son-in-law is also processing and selling alligator hides to Europe and Asia.)

The column also drew an e-mail from Richard Jameon, a Brownsville, Tenn., producer who served on the ASA board of directors during much of the 1990s. He said he believes Sen. Grassley is wrong on the payment limits issue, but points out that ASA is an organization that represents the Midwest as well as the South.

“The National Cotton Council is for the most part in the South where the crops are most sensitive to payment limits being revised downward,” he wrote. “This makes ASA's stand on these issues more delicate and harder to come by than what cotton has to decide. In the end, I agree with your thesis — I just think ASA deserves a better shake for its efforts among southern agriculturalists.”

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