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Articles from 2000 In November


Field of ag-related Websites growing

The number of agricultural-related businesses and services finding their way on to the Internet seems to multiply almost on a daily basis.

While there are a multitude of Websites competing for your attention, we've found three new sites you may want to consider visiting. One site offers rice cooking tips and recipes, another caters its information to rice producers, and the third is an online agricultural chemical dealer.

The USA Rice Federation's recipe Website, Ricecafe.com, is reportedly attracting more than 1,400 visitors each day, as technology begins to influence the way consumers cook.

According to a recent survey by the National Pork Producers Council, cookbook sales are down while the use of the Internet to find recipes is up.

Improvements to the rice cafe Website are continually being made as the USA Rice Federation adds new material and improves the overall design and navigational qualities of the site. Recent additions include a new kid's section and press area, football party recipes and tips, a National Rice Month section, and entertaining tips.

Promising user-friendly, accurate rice market information, www.riceonline.com, says it is the Internet homepage for the world rice industry.

"The superior quality of our market information is what sets up apart in this field," says Mark Creed, president and chief executive officer of RiceOnline, Inc. "Anyone can develop a Website, but our viewers tell us they return to our site daily, because our information is literally up-to-the-minute."

The free Website offers news and information, USDA crop reports, a calendar of events, and links to agricultural associations, rice mills, exports and traders, and agribusinesses.

RiceOnline.com is an affiliated company developed by the Houston-based, rice brokerage firm Creed Rice, Co., Inc.

Billing itself as "your number one source for agricultural chemicals," Hanshaw Commission Company of Jonesboro, Ark., locates pesticides for its online customers.

The company's Internet homepage at, www.hanshawcom.com, features information about the company, a list of chemicals the company has available for sale, and a list of those chemicals the company's customers are interested in purchasing.

On a recent visit to the Website, we found an offer for the sale of Command 3ME for $49.25 per gallon and Poast for $50 per gallon. In both cases, minimum purchase amounts were required and shipping charges were additional. A number of other agricultural chemicals were also listed for sale on the Website, but required potential customers to call for pricing information.

Zinc-treated rice big hit in Arkansas

Research shows treatment equals or surpasses other methods

When a crop input reduces costs without hurting yields, word gets around quickly. Take zinc-treated rice seed for example. In Arkansas, rice acreage planted with zinc-treated seed grew over 15-fold in one year, from around 10,000 acres in 1999 to perhaps as many as 250,000 acres in 2000.

"We've gone from a few producers buying zinc-treated seed and not really knowing what they had, to this," said Nathan Slaton, Arkansas Extension rice specialist.

In fact, it's been so successful that after just two years of research, Slaton was comfortable with recommending - where needed - a 0.25 to 0.5 pound of zinc per hundredweight of seed for the 2000 growing season. "A third year of research conducted in 2000 continues to support previous work showing that zinc seed treatments perform equal to soil- or foliar-applied zinc."

What's the reason for such sweeping acceptance? "All our research on zinc-treated seed has shown very positive results, very good yields and low cost compared to the standard foliar- or soil-applied methods," Slaton said. "It's a quarter to a fifth of the cost. There's no special trip. The zinc is on the seed. The distribution is perfect. The only way you can mess it up is by not applying it on the seed at the correct rate."

Slaton noted that zinc deficiency is most prevalent on silt and sandy loam soils with high pH. "Generally, as pH increases, zinc availability to the plant decreases."

Slaton estimates that 25 percent of Arkansas rice acreage falls into this category. It's been on these acres that the increase in zinc-treated seed has taken place. "We (Arkansas) generally don't have a problem with zinc deficiency on clay soils."

The importance of zinc has long been known to Arkansas producers, according to Slaton. "In one test this year, we saw a 100-bushel yield difference between plots without zinc and those treated with zinc. If you leave a deficiency untreated the entire year, a lot of times, the plants will struggle but recover. The range in plant yield response is typically between 10 bushels and 100 bushels per acre."

A University of Arkansas rice research verification trial also un derscored the need for zinc on high-pH, silt loam soils, according to Slaton.

"We looked at the soil tests on the field and thought that it was a prime candidate for zinc, although the farmer indicated the field did not have a history of zinc deficiency. We put out some foliar treatments to monitor it, and sure enough, when he flushed the rice the first time, it got sick everywhere except where the zinc was applied."

Currently, there are three recommended ways to apply zinc on rice, foliar at preflood; a granular at preplant; or a seed treatment. Research indicates that all three provide the same level of benefit. But low cost is what makes zinc-treated seed so popular.

"Depending on your seeding rate, a high estimate for the seed treatment of zinc would be $4 to $5," Slaton said. "A foliar zinc application will cost $5 to $12 an acre for product - depending on whether you go with a zinc sulfate or an EDTA chelated solution - plus the cost of the application."

A granular application may cost $8 to $12 an acre for 10 pounds of actual zinc per acre. "If that's the only thing you're putting out, there'll be another $3 to $4 charge for application."

Slaton adds that the soil-applied method of zinc treatment is not only costly, but it's not very efficient either. In fact, the recommended rate of soil-applied zinc is 40 times the amount of crop removal.

"If you yield 150 bushels of dry rice, you're only removing a quarter pound of zinc," Slaton said. "Yet we're recommending that you apply 10 pounds an acre. That's because you can't get adequate fertilizer distribution going with anything less than that."

An advantage of soil-applied zinc is that there is a residual benefit to future crops. Over time, this has resulted in high soil-test levels of zinc in some fields. This winter, UA added soil-test zinc to pH and soil texture as factors to consider for recommending a zinc treatment. Slaton noted that soils generally contain 3 to 5 pounds of native zinc.

While soil-test zinc levels and other factors may not warrant a recommendation for zinc, Slaton notes that rice producers may nonetheless be nervous about leaving off a zinc treatment.

"If you're planting early, and your soil-test level is borderline or you just don't want to eliminate your zinc application, this is an ideal situation to use the zinc seed treatment at a lower rate just as an insurance policy on high-pH, silt loam soils."

Kubota previews new releases

Kubota Tractor Corporation is targeting those consumers looking for a compact, high-performing utility tractor with its new 2001 model L48 series.

With a suggested list price of $32,300 for the L48TL and $43,000 for the L48TLB, Kubota is betting the 48 horsepower utility tractors will find a niche among farmers, small construction firms and rental operators.

At a recent dealer meeting in New Orleans, Kubota gave its dealers a sneak peak of 22 new machines the company will release in 2001, including the L48 tractor-loader and L48 tractor-loader-backhoe

According to the company, the L48 is a versatile tractor with a performance-matched loader and backhoe providing the user with more dynamic power and ease of use.

The new utility tractor line offers increased horsepower and enhanced operational performance with a new four-cylinder V2403-M-ETLB diesel engine with dual, internal balancers, and a hydrostatic transmission.

"This quiet, environmentally friendly diesel engine enjoys impressive torque rise and power delivery while producing fewer emissions than competitive models," Kubota says.

The new L48's increased capabilities deliver a backhoe dig depth of more than 11 feet and a loader lift capacity of 2,540 pounds. The utility tractor offers maximum lift height of nine-feet, seven-inches and uses a four-bar linkage system to facilitate its 45-degree bucket rollback and dump angle.

"Kubota's self-leveling valve automatically maintains a level bucket as the boom is raised or lowered. An optional rod-type bucket level indicator accurately monitors bucket position when on the ground. These and other design features enable the L48 to successfully undertake major loader applications normally reserved for larger equipment," the company says.

The L48's heavy-duty Category I, three-point hitch with position control is lift rated at 3,000 pounds. The live 540-rpm PTO provides ready-to-go power adding further value to the tractor's engineering menu.

The operator's area of the tractors feature a full-floating ISO-mounted flat deck and a one-touch reversible seat to switch between loader and backhoe positions.

"Our goal is to continually provide our dealers with competitive market segment exclusives and technologically advanced, yet fairly priced, agricultural, construction and consumer equipment. Kubota's growing corporate infrastructure in the United States and our global engineering and manufacturing capabilities contribute to the achievement of that goal," says Mori Hayashi, president of Kubota Tractor Corporation.

Rotation will keep Roundy Ready effective option for years to come

There seems to be a little more interest all the time, even at the grower level, about the potential for resistance or species shifts with Roundup Ready crops. From the beginning, it has been obvious that the weed control technology in the Roundup Ready crops is superior to conventional systems.

The ability to control some weeds in soybeans, such as Palmer pigweed and sicklepod, makes that system the only choice in some situations. The ability to control a broad spectrum of weeds, including red rice and johnsongrass, with a single herbicide is a big advantage.

Perhaps I get the most farmer testimonials on the fact that using Roundup Ready crops is just so simple. Some laugh, but my program of spraying Roundup, Touchdown or an equivalent generic every Monday morning until there is nothing but soybeans is simple and it works.

I have been a proponent of increasing our acreage of Roundup ready soybeans simply due to the number of "grown-up mess" calls I get each year. It seems now everyone is figuring that out and the acreage is increasing dramatically. Of course, it has not been weed control issues that has held it back to this point.

If one assumes the GMO issue isn't going to impede acceptance, the use of Roundup Ready crops will continue to increase. It is currently used on well over one-half of our soybean acreage and making a big surge forward. We need to think about how we make this technology last far into the future. Unless chemical companies have a sudden turn around in the development of new herbicides, what we have is what we are going to have for the foreseeable future.

So, now you have a technology that is broad spectrum and kills difficult weeds. It is simple. It is cheap and getting cheaper.

Will weed shifts or weed resistance occur with this technology? It isn't a matter of "if" but "when." The nice thing is that you can have the major input into when this occurs on your farm. When it occurs will be determined by how badly you overuse the technology.

Some will tell you not to worry about it. I can't guarantee you how quickly you will have problems if you overuse the technology.

Some will tell you to just "throw a little of this herbicide or that herbicide" somewhere into your program and you won't have to worry about it. Maybe that is true, but I would go further.

You can rotate Roundup Ready crops with non-Roundup Ready crops. Even where you are primarily into soybeans and wheat, there is no reason to plant Roundup Ready soybeans every time. Even in the worst of the grown-up messes, there is no reason that a couple of cycles of Roundup Ready soybeans should not clean them up tremendously. Then, you can go back to a conventional program for a cycle or two.

In the cleaner situations to start with, you can alternate systems even easier. This time of year is planning time. Set up a plan to rotate your weed control strategies.

Experts stress importance of irrigation timing

We know that during a dry summer applying water to Mid-South crops will increase potential yields. The key to making money on those irrigated acres, however, may be knowing when the best time is to begin irrigation efforts.

"The goal of irrigation is to prevent crop stress throughout the growing season. Many producers, though, start late, quit too soon, and have poor field drainage," irrigation specialist Earl Vories told growers attending the Delta Irrigation Workshop Nov. 9 in Delhi, La.

Vories, an Extension agricultural engineer at the University of Arkansas, recommends growers consider all of the variables involved in irrigation scheduling before deciding when to turn on the water.

Many variables - including drainage, rainfall, soil type, irrigation method, pumping capacity, and commitment - are unique to each farming operation. "Are you committed to properly irrigating or is it something you're not going to think about until you have everything else done?" he asks.

To make the job of deciding when to turn the pumps on easier, irrigation specialists in Arkansas have developed a computer irrigation scheduling program. The program uses the water balance approach, which Vories sees as most practical for the Mid-South area.

Phil Tacker, Extension agricultural engineer at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, Ark., says the scheduler program can be incorporated easily into various crop production systems. "We've tried to make the data entry as straight-forward and quick as possible," he says.

To schedule irrigation applications using the software, a producer simply supplies the program with basic information for each crop field. The required information includes a field name, planting date, emergence date and type of irrigation system being used.

Then throughout the growing season, daily rainfall and temperature data is added by the producer to the program. At that point, the computer program takes over, identifying the dates when each crop field is in need of watering.

"When you are scheduling your irrigation, the soil may look very moist on top, causing you to think you're watering too much. However, that moisture may only go down a few inches in the soil. Proper irrigation should result in a depth of 12 inches of soil moisture," says Joe Henggeler, an agricultural engineer with the University of Missouri Delta Center in Portageville, Mo.

According to Henggeler, irrigation costs in the Missouri Bootheel averaged $15 per acre in 1999. Breaking it down, fuel costs averaged $12 per acre, and well maintenance and repair averaged just over $3 per acre.

"The biggest cost by far is the initial cost of adding irrigation capabilities, which we estimate averages between $50 and $75 per acre," says Henggeler. "So, it's not a good idea to have such a big investment and then not use it."

The Arkansas irrigation scheduling program can be downloaded free from the internet. To access the program, go to www.uaex.edu on the Internet and select agriculture from the left of the page. Then, from the table in the center of the page select agricultural engineering under the heading for agriculture and natural resources. That will pull up another web page, at which point the irrigation program can be found in the programs box on the left side of the page.

Aventis to sell ag business

Citing market consolidation, Aventis has announced it will sell its agricultural chemicals business.

The sale is also an effort by the company to focus on the company's pharmaceutical business.

"Since the creation of Aventis, market consolidation in both the pharmaceutical and agriculture sector has accelerated. By effecting the separation, Aventis would achieve strategic flexibility, clarity, and enhanced performance focus for both businesses," the company says.

In a Nov. 15 press release, Aventis said it will evaluate all value-enhancing options including a potential public offering of Aventis Crop Science under the name "Agreva."

The sale of Aventis CropScience, the company's crop protection and crop production business, is expected to be completed by the end of 2001.

The company says it will "initiate discussions" with Schering AG and expects to reach an agreement within a short period of time

A minority shareholder in the company, Schering AG owns 24 percent of Aventis Crop Science.

Aventis Crop Science, which was formed last year with the merger of Rhone-Poulenc and Hoeshst AG, says its agricultural business is "recovering despite a highly competitive and ongoing difficult environment."

Aventis Agriculture, which consolidates Aventis CropScience and Aventis Animal Nutrition, reported a decrease of 1.4 percent in first nine-month sales, as compared to the same period in 1999.

For Aventis CropScience, the company's crop protection and crop production business, first nine-month sales were reported down 1.8 percent from 1999. However, third quarter sales for the division reportedly rose 6 percent over the same period in 1999.

The company recently found itself in the midst of controversy over its StarLink corn. Traces of the transgenic corn were found in tiny amounts in some taco shells, despite the fact that the corn varieties were not approved for human consumption.

In response, Aventis voluntarily withdrew its StarLink registration application with the Environmental Protection Agency until a new registration for both food and feed use is approved.

The company is requesting regulatory officials grant a time-limited approval for a presence of the corn in human food. "The new submission demonstrates that consumer exposure to food products containing StarLink Cry9C protein, even under worst-case scenarios, is many thousands of times smaller than that required to sensitize and lead to a later allergic reaction," Aventis said.

Chart says a lot about farm policy

David Kenyon has a chart that he says ought to be a fixture in every agricultural economist's briefcase. The chart compares total exports of U.S. corn, wheat and soybeans from 1975 to 2000. As you might expect, there are peaks and valleys for each commodity, given the vagaries of weather and farm programs.

"But, if you look at these lines, there is no trend up," says Kenyon, marketing specialist with Virginia Tech. "They are flat. And if you put the last five years in there, they're still flat."

Speaking a few weeks ago at the Southern Region Agricultural Outlook Conference in Atlanta, Kenyon said he "almost got shot" when he tried to discuss the implications of the chart when Congress was deliberating the current farm law.

"You may remember that the 1996 farm bill was sold to farmers largely on increased exports," he said. "We were going to export our way right out of this problem."

As luck would have it, the United States had just experienced a surge in corn exports, primarily because of purchases by China. "I think China gave us a sucker punch," Kenyon noted. "They came in and bought all this stuff and then just disappeared."

Since that time, U.S. grain exports have been on a downward slide. After reaching 2.2 billion bushels the year Freedom to Farm passed, U.S. corn exports have ranged from 1.5 billion to 1.98 billion bushels.

"And, if we hadn't gone to the marketing loan, what would they have been?" he asked, referring to the farm bill provision that allows growers to put their crops in the CCC loan and redeem them at the adjusted world price.

"So, in the coming debate, I would have a chart like this in my briefcase," said Kenyon. "And when farmers get too caught up in believing all this stuff that exports are going to bale us out, you can ask them `What structural changes are you expecting that's going to change this trend of the last 25 years?"

Kenyon told his audience, which consisted mostly of agricultural economists, that he believes the best hope for improving grain prices is to keep exporting more chickens, turkeys, pigs and beef, which will consume more grain.

"A lot of countries are enjoying higher incomes," he noted. "We know what happens when they have higher incomes - they eat more meat. We can export more value-added meat products.

"We should be talking about that instead of bulk commodity exports. That's not going to be our salvation in terms of these really low prices we have right now."

On another note, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman raised more farmers' hackles when he said the next farm bill should contain "targeted, counter-cyclical" income support for producers.

Few growers would argue with the counter-cyclical portion of that statement, but the targeted aspect has come to be seen as a code word for shifting income support to small, family farms and away from the much-maligned corporate farms.

About the best that can be said for Glickman's comments is that after Jan. 20 they will carry even less weight than they do now.

But retain planting flexibility - New farm bill should include safety net

Despite shortcomings of the current farm law, it's not likely that there will be new legislation before its scheduled expiration two years from now, three members of the Commission on 21st Century Agriculture said at the annual meeting of the Southern Crop Production Association.

The 11-member commission, created under terms of the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act (FAIR) of 1996, is charged with conducting a comprehensive review of production agriculture in the United States and the appropriate role of the federal government in supporting agriculture.

It has held a series of hearings around the nation to solicit input from farmers, agribusiness, and other sectors, and is to submit specific legislative recommendations for future farm legislation by Jan. 1, 2001.

"There is much speculation as to whether we will get new legislation or whether we'll stick with this bill to its end," says Bruce Brumfield, Mississippi cotton, rice, soybean, small grains, and catfish producer. "We may start getting some clues when we see how the elections turn out, but I personally feel there will not be new legislation before this bill expires."

Another commission member, Bob Stallman, Texas rice and cattle producer who earlier this year became president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, agreed: "I don't think we'll see a new farm program in 2001. We may have to go through another year of ad hoc assistance from Congress, but I believe the debate on new farm legislation can begin in earnest next year."

They and a third commission member, Iowa producer William Northey, along with Alabama producer Steve Tate, were panel discussants at the SCPA meeting at Amelia Island, Fla.

"For three years, we've been holding meetings, looking at what works, what doesn't, what other countries are doing," Northey said. "There's no silver bullet - nothing that fixes everything for everyone.

"This is a big country and there are a lot of different farming operations. If you fix something here, you have to be careful you don't screw things up somewhere else.

"We probably will end up with a hodgepodge of programs that won't be a total fix, but maybe it will be better than trying to devise a program that will fit everyone. Our challenge is to try and do the least harm possible."

All agreed that: - Farmers like the planting flexibility and lack of acreage controls under Freedom to Farm and that future legislation should continue that feature.

- There should, however, be a "safety net" to protect farmers in times of overproduction and low world prices.

- The market-oriented approach of the current legislation should be preserved.

- Given the oversupply/low price scenario of the past three years, Congress' generosity with supplemental funding has been a boon to farmers who would have otherwise been in deep financial trouble.

"We've been fortunate," said Brumfield, "that Congress has appropriated additional money for relief. If it had not, the farm community would have been absolutely devastated.

"Those of us who've been in agriculture for a long time knew this (farm law) would probably not be adequate, given the cyclical nature of agriculture. But at the time it was passed, given the impasse in Congress, it probably was the only thing that could have been approved. World trade was good and it looked as if the good times would continue forever.

"In 1996 and 1997, prices were good...and program subsidies were adequate. But we started running into trouble in 1998, things got worse in 1999, and 2000 has seen little improvement."

If the situation stays as it is, Brumfield said, "we'll have to ask for more for 2000 and 2001. So, I don't think we can complain too much - Congress and the U.S. taxpayer have been generous to farming.

"But if there's one thing we've learned from this farm law, it's that we need a safety net for the tough times and then save money on farm programs in the good years."

Said Northey: "Vice President Gore has said Freedom to Farm is `a proven failure' that should be fixed, but has offered no solutions. There certainly is some baggage attached to it, and we've spent `way more dollars than was expected when it was passed.

"The rest of the world's farmers are envious of these supports and they're urging their own politicians to match them. But, these payments have done a lot to stabilize U.S. agriculture these past few years."

Farm Bureau's Stallman said: "It's a truism of farm policy that one size doesn't fit all; with any legislation, there will be winners and losers.

"We've received approximately $30 billion in assistance from Congress that wasn't provided in the legislation. Without it, the situation in agriculture would be a lot worse. But ad hoc payments are a short-term solution.

"The current system is not suitable for any long-term planning. We need more certainty in farm programs. We need more agricultural research so we can maintain our competitive edge in the world marketplace.

"We need to determine how farm programs will relate under the World Trade Organization. We're getting close to the allowable cap on farm supports, and if we violate our WTO agreement, that leaves us wide open to sanctions. We can't afford that, because one of every three U.S. acres goes to export."

Producer Steve Tate, who is vice president of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, said, "$2.13 corn and $4.74 soybeans may lead some to say we need to change the farm law - but it's like trying to run a rabbit down with a golf cart: you can get close, but never really hit it.

"For the past few years, 30 percent to 50 percent of net farm income has been from government programs. Can we expect this to continue? Probably not."

Farm legislation "can't address costs," Tate said. "Over the last eight to 10 years, my machinery costs have risen 37 percent. My fuel costs are up 100 percent in the past year. The seed cotton I bought in 1992 for $25.95 a bag is now $52. Labor is hard to come by and wages are up 40 percent in 10 years.

"All these costs continue to escalate, and I don't know how the farm bill can address that. But it should provide some kind of safety net for times like these.

"I'm not saying that anyone should guarantee that I stay in business if I'm not efficient, and I don't think that every producer in farming today should be there. Nobody can afford to be average any more and stay in business."

Tate said producers are being told they need to be least cost producers in order to compete in the world market.

"But how long can we compete with each other? In Alabama, there's no way I can be a least-cost producer in corn and wheat in competition with Midwest farmers. As I plan for the next two years, I don't see myself growing much grain, simply because I can't compete with those producers.

"Farm legislation could help by offering incentives for cooperative farming efforts. Several farmers could achieve more efficiencies together than separately. But getting them to do it without providing incentives may be difficult."

Soybean associations defend food aid initiative

Dear Editor: We recently read with some concern the article "Donation program corporate welfare?" in Delta Farm Press regarding ASA's (American Soybean Association) soy food aid initiative, and we would like to share with you why our organizations support this program.

In the article [Oct. 20, 2000, pg. 4] it was suggested that the $1 billion that would be used to purchase soybeans, soybean meal, and soybean oil from the marketplace for donation or sale overseas might be better spent if it was just given to farmers outright. However, that suggestion ignores the numerous actions ASA and state soybean associations have successfully taken to provide direct income support to producers to help them cope with historically low prices. That suggestion also means that soybean farmers and ASA should abandon work on demand-building programs that will allow soybean farmers to earn more from the marketplace. We couldn't disagree more.

As a policy advocate for soybean farmers, ASA secured a 34-cent per bushel rate increase in the soybean marketing loan from $4.92 per bushel to $5.26 per bushel in the 1996 farm bill. This action alone has put over $2.6 billion in soybean farmers pockets over the past three years in the form of increased LDP payments and marketing loan gains. ASA also worked directly with Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran to get the special Oilseed Payment Program passed last year, which authorized a payment of about 14 cents per bushel to soybean farmers last year and again this year. ASA's success to amend legislation to include biodiesel made from soybean oil as an alternative fuel is estimated to also add another 11 cents per bushel to the price farmers are paid for their soybeans.

The value of just these three ASA legislative victories to a producer of 1,000 acres of soybeans yielding 30 bushels per acre was worth 59 cents per bushel or $17,700 total last year alone. ASA also championed legislation that doubled ANITA payments to producers, and doubled the payment limit from $75,000 to $150,000 on loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains so producers had an opportunity to get maximum benefit from these programs. We believe these are very real and tangible and direct benefits that soybean producers probably would not have if not for the efforts of the ASA and its state affiliates.

ASA proposed the soy food aid initiative as a way to address the oversupply of soybeans, which is one of the underlying problems that is causing the current low prices. Record or near-record crop production during the last few years continues to add to the supply, and in spite of the fact that U.S. soybean exports were at record levels last year, there are still too many soybeans. Additional government payments directly to farmers will do nothing to remove these surplus beans from the market.

Another important aspect of the soy food aid initiative is that while it will help improve prices paid to farmers, it could also result in a net savings for the government. According to elasticity models developed by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) that is operated by Iowa State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia, and USDA's own estimates of projected LDP and marketing loan gain payments to producers, a comprehensive soy food aid program could boost soybean prices by 47 cents per bushel and therefore reduce U.S. farm program outlays.

The net result would be a $427 million savings for U.S. taxpayers. Most of the farmers I know would prefer to get a better price from the market rather than a bigger check from the government.

Beyond the immediate benefits, soy food aid will help maintain and reconstruct markets for soybeans and soy products that were either diminished or lost as a result of the global financial crisis that took place a couple of years ago, and it will also help develop new long-term markets for soybeans and soy products, including newly developed soy protein isolates and concentrates. It also provides the United States with a unique opportunity to assist the most needy countries in the world with food aid.

ASA and state soybean associations in the Delta agree that producers need direct income assistance during these times of historically low commodity prices, and we have been successful in delivering some much needed assistance. While working to deliver immediate assistance, we can't ignore the important work that will reduce burdensome stock levels and build long-term demand for agricultural products around the globe. The soy food aid initiative is designed to do just that. As such, the majority of soybean farmers believe the soy food aid initiative is a good idea.