Soybean farming has changed dramatically since 1920. But even then, decisions made on Capitol Hill were having a direct effect on the production and profitability of soybean farmers. That's why the American Soybean Association (ASA) was established 90 years ago – and continues to be the advocate and grassroots voice of the nation's soybean farmers when important policy is being discussed and created.

In 2010, ASA celebrates its 90th year as a member-driven association focused on representing the best interests of soybean farmers on Capitol Hill and around the globe. Established in 1920, ASA has been a promoter and watchdog for soybean farmers when ag and environmental policy, government regulations and trade agreements are being developed.

During the past 90 years, ASA has helped the soybean industry grow dramatically. In 1919, only about 1 million bushels of soybeans were produced on 112,826 acres at a value of about $4.5 million. Now, soybean production in the U.S. is 3.25 billion bushels from 76.6 million acres with a value of more than $32 billion.

ASA has helped improve the profitability of soybean farmers in a number of ways. In recent years, ASA fought for biodiesel tax incentives that have improved soybean prices, increasing soybean farmer net returns by more than $2.5 billion over the last four years alone. ASA also worked to ensure farmer-friendly provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill. ASA continues to work on trade policy to open new markets for soybeans and soy products and make sure current soy markets stay open – including the Chinese market, which accounted for nearly 60% of U.S. soy exports in 2009. ASA-supported trade agreements have resulted in billions of dollars in sales of soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil – not to mention exports of pork and poultry.

According to ASA President Johnny Dodson, a soybean grower from Tennessee, the job isn't getting any easier. “Agriculture is under attack from special interest groups, animal rights and environmental activists and misinformed media,” Dodson says. “Major climate change, environmental and energy bills are being debated now, and debate over a new farm bill is on the horizon. Soybean research and transportation projects must be funded. And international trade agreements are being negotiated. Soybean farmers have a huge stake in it all-and ASA makes sure their voice is heard.

“Becoming an ASA member allows farmers to have their voices heard, knowing that someone is protecting their interests in Washington, D.C. and in their state capitol,” adds Dodson. “If soybean farmers believe they need to be heard when policy is being formulated, they need to make the choice to belong to ASA. We've been watching the backs of soybean farmers for 90 years – and we're not about to let up now.”

Dodson notes that many soybean farmers are under the mistaken impression that they are ASA members because they pay the soybean checkoff. “The soybean checkoff is specifically prohibited by law from influencing policy or lobbying on behalf of soybean farmers,” Dodson says. “While every soybean farmer pays into the checkoff to fund important research and promotion work, ASA's lobbying and regulatory work for soybean farmers is funded by soybean farmer memberships in ASA. You have to make the choice to belong to the American Soybean Association.”

When soybean farmers join ASA, they also join their state soybean association. ASA has more than 22,500 members. Farmers interested in joining can visit ASA or call toll free 800-688-7692.