Anyone restricting agriculture's access to foreign markets should "Get out of our way," warns American Soybean Association President Mike Yost.

Yost says that international trade is an old but vital topic for soybean growers.

"ASA has been working overseas to expand demand for U.S. soybeans and soybean products since 1956," he points out. "Today we have 13 foreign offices staffed with professionals whose sole objective is to create demand for soybeans and greater profit opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers."

But some consumers are hearing arguments against exports, including horror stories about lost U.S. jobs or wages.

"We have low unemployment, high per-capita purchasing power and an overall strong economy with one of the most open trade policies in the world. International trade is not an enemy of the United States; it is one of our greatest strengths," he says.

Even so, dependence on foreign markets is not without problems, Yost adds.

"Every year, the soybean industry has to worry about how large global demand will be, and how much Argentina, Brazil and other countries will export in competition with us. We must contend with regional and global recessions that reduce our customers' buying power. We have to deal with export restrictions our own government imposes on us."

However, U.S. agriculture produced an estimated $50 billion in foreign exchange earnings this past year. No other country in the world comes close to matching U.S. ag trade success, Yost points out.

But agriculture needs three key ingredients to ensure future export market success:

* Fast-track authority to allow the U.S. to participate fully in future multilateral trade negotiations.

* Good World Trade Organization accession agreements with China, Taiwan and Russia.

* A continued Freedom to Farm program, which has - and will continue to - increase U.S. soybean acreage.

If U.S. growers had not been able to increase production in recent years, farmers in Argentina, Brazil and other countries would have expanded production to meet demand, the ASA president adds.

"If you don't grow it, you can't sell it. As more countries become more dependent on imports to supply their food needs, it's imperative that we have a farm program that allows us to meet those needs," he says.