The issue of how to get soybeans out of the country and young farmers into the countryside weighs on Nebraska farmer Bart Ruth's mind. As the new president of the American Soybean Association (ASA), he intends to work on both issues.
“It's rare to get a chance to do something for your fellow producers,” says the Rising City, NE, farmer. “As ASA president, I have a chance to have an impact and a chance for personal growth.”
Export and trade will be key issues during Ruth's reign.
“ASA has never been a one-issue organization, but those are my top two priorities,” he says. “Exports to China have increased 1,300% in less than six years (one of every 4 bu exported this year) and Mexico has become our No. 2. market. It's obvious that continued export trade is vital.
“Given the time frame of my administration, the Farm Bill will be given a lot of consideration,” Ruth says. “A couple of key issues we'll be looking at are renewable fuels and more equitable treatment for soybean growers.” Specifically, he'll lobby for soybean growers to be included equitably in marketing loan programs and AMTA payments.
Ruth predicts you'll see more cooperation among commodity groups as the new Farm Bill is pieced together. “During the last week of June, corn, soybean, wheat, rice, cotton and barley growers sat down together in Washington, D.C. and looked for areas of mutual agreement,” he says. “That was the first time that ever happened.”
While his head is focused in Washington, D.C., Ruth's heart will be at his home farm where he wonders if there will be a future for his sons, if they decide to farm.
“We need to make farming more attractive to the younger generation,” he says. “Right now, young farmers watch their parents struggle, work 80-hour weeks and not make any progress.”
Ruth looks to policy and trade to provide opportunities for the next generation of farmers as well as today's. “It would help if we could get some legislative relief to make it easier to pass the farming operation from one generation to the next,” he says.
Ruth certainly hopes that includes his family. He represents the sixth generation in his family to farm the land his ancestors homesteaded in the 1870s. The farmhouse he lives in today sets just 100 yards from where the original sod house was cut from native prairie.
One reason for his optimism for future farmers is that stronger export markets will take prices to more profitable levels for the next generation of farmers. “We've seen a 56% increase in world demand for soybean meal in the last 10 years. If this trend continues, we'll need an additional 2 billion bushels of soybeans by 2010.
“We need to make sure we continue to create a trading environment to take advantage of those changes,” he says. “And, we need to create a farm policy environment that allows the most farmers the best opportunity to be successful.”