The grassroots growth of the American Soybean Association(ASA) has Alan Kemper excited about what’s in store for growers in ASA’s 25 affiliated states. And the incoming ASA president is challenging others to speak up loudly for better markets, research and overall farm policy.
The Lafayette, IN, farmer is part of a five-generation crop and livestock operation that began in 1888. He and his wife Janet, a registered nurse, and son Brian run the soybean, cornand cattle venture. Their daughter Crystal teaches middle school and is a commercial pilot flight instructor.
“We’re fortunate to farm in a ‘golden triangle’ with major grain terminals situated in any direction,” says Kemper, an ASA member since 1972. His ag leadership skills are many, including serving as agricultural legislative assistant to former Sen. Dan Quayle in the mid-1980s.
He’ll be the first person to hold both the ASA presidency and that of the National Corn Growers Association, a job he held in 1989-1990.
“We were pushing ethanol before it was cool,” he says, “and the need for expanded biofuels use – especially biodiesel– has never been more important than now. It’s essential that we receive a multi-year extension of the $1/gal. federal tax credit for biodiesel. This will be a net win for soybean growers, our country and our government.”
Kemper reminds growers that ASA “is guided by what the state affiliates want – our grassroots membership that is now at 22,500+.”
Free-trade agreements have enhanced soybean and other exports, and more are needed, says Kemper, among those pushing for the advancement of the Korea, Colombia and Panama free-trade agreements to help secure more markets for American soybeans.
Trade with Chinaalone is huge, with close to $9 billion, or 22 million tons, of U.S. soybeans to be exported to China this year. “More than 55% of all U.S. soybeans are exported, and 25% of the U.S. soybean harvest goes to China,” says Kemper.
“The value of U.S. trade to soybean farmers is enormous, and more trade with South America
and other regions is needed.”
He has co-chairedinternational oilseed producer dialog in which there is a world push for increased sustainability. “Our challenge is to make sure economic profitability is in the definition of ‘sustainability,’” says Kemper, adding that climate-change regulations are also of concern to ASA.
“We don’t want the American soybean farmer to suffer unfairly in the global climate-change debate,” he says.
He outlines several key issues he and other ASA members should keep on their minds. They include: farm policy and partnerships between ASA, state soybean affiliates, the United Soybean Board (which handles the soybean checkoff), the U.S. Soybean Export Council and the National Oilseed Producers Association.
“We will be fully engaged in the 2010 Farm Bill and intent on assuring there is a safety net for soybean farmers,” Kemper says. He adds that ASA dues are key to funding legislative policy and other advocacy by ASA’s board of directors and staff.
“We’ll continue to seek membership growth. The value soybean farmers gain from dues to their state association and ASA is extremely high. Being an ASA member should be a no-brainer for every soybean farmer.”
Kemper is also a strong supporter of the soybean checkoff to help generate new markets, better production techniques and better-quality soy products.
“I believe that consumers need all of agriculture to put food on the table, whether it’s the conventional, organic or other type of production,” he concludes. “ASA helps agriculture and society obtain that goal.”