The American Soybean Association (ASA) is challenging the United States Congress and the Clinton Administration to take specific actions to boost agricultural exports and support farm income. ASA President Mike Yost said, “Congress must get its priorities straight and pass both Fast Track trade negotiating legislation and funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before they adjourn in October.”In the past year, we have seen a deepening economic crisis in American agriculture. Soybean prices are down by over a third from their highs in 1996. In fact, 1998 crop prices are lower than at any time since the 1985 farm credit crisis. The last four months have seen the value of this year’s soybean crop fall by $2.6 billion.”This decline in farm prices is due, in large measure, to a sharp reversal in the historical growth trend of U.S. agricultural exports,” Yost stated. U.S. farm sales are down from over $60 billion in 1996 to $52.5 billion this year. One of the major causes of this reversal is the erosion of U. S. farm exports, as global financial problems have spread from Malaysia, Indonesia and Korea to Japan, Russia and Latin America.”In the absence of assistance from the International Monetary Fund, exports of U.S. soybeans and soybean products to IMF-assisted countries in Asia are down by $182 million from last year’s levels,” Yost said. “While there is no assurance that the $18 billion requested by the administration will turn the situation around, it is clear that continued failure of Congress to meet our obligations to the IMF will only make matters worse.”The same concern applies if Congress fails to provide Fast Track trade negotiation authority to the administration. Our trade representatives cannot negotiate trade agreements without Fast Track authority. Whether in agriculture or in other sectors of the economy, opponents of Fast Track have no chance to improve trade competitiveness if they continue to block this legislation. Instead, we will sit on the sidelines while our competitors conclude major agreements with our biggest customers.”Having spent more than 40 years successfully developing foreign markets for U.S. soybeans, the American Soybean Association knows that trade agreements are the building blocks of future growth,” stated Yost. “As with IMF funding, the continued failure of Congress and the administration to renew Fast Track authority will only make matters worse.”The American Soybean Association is asking members of Congress to consider the options facing U.S. farmers without IMF and Fast Track legislation. Under the 1996 Farm Bill, producers are not only permitted to expand planted acres, but also are encouraged to maximize production. The clear implication of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act is that U.S. trade and foreign policy will be designed to maximize producer competitiveness and market access.”U.S. farmers are now harvesting large or record crops for which there are either inadequate foreign buying power or insufficient market access. In the case of soybeans, one out of every two bushels produced must be exported to prevent price-depressing surpluses,” Yost explained. “Whether or not a member of Congress voted for the Farm Bill, each must recognize the consequences of inaction at this critical time. Prices will continue to fall, the number of farm families leaving the land will increase, and the ability of our industry to feed a hungry world in the next century will be seriously impaired.”Trade sanctions are also hurting U.S. soybean farmers. The American Soybean Association estimates that, due to sanctions, the U.S. soybean industry is being denied access to a $554 million market and the U.S. economy has to forgo 2,700 to 4,000 jobs. U.S. soybean farmers have lost exports of 71.8 million dollars to Cuba, 53.8 million dollars to Iran, 14.4 million dollars to North Korea, and 4.7 million dollars to Iraq. That’s more than 144 million dollars of lost opportunities. The ASA estimates that U.S. soybean prices would be 6 to 9 cents higher per bushel if Congress will lift these sanctions before it adjourns.