American Soybean Association (ASA) President Mike Yost called for the United States to stop the damage to agriculture caused by use of economic sanctions. During his June 9 testimony before the House Agriculture Committee, Yost indicated ASA support of the U.S. Agricultural Trade Act of 1999, H.R. 817, introduced by Representative Thomas Ewing (R-IL). The legislation would exempt commercial sales, concessional sales and humanitarian grants and donations of U.S. agricultural commodities from future unilateral economic sanctions, unless the President determines that the exemption should not apply for foreign policy or national security issues.”The use of unilateral economic sanctions by our government has been a recurring nightmare for soybean producers and all of U.S. agriculture for nearly three decades,” said Yost, a soybean producer from Murdock, Minn. “Every year, these actions deny U.S. farmers, processors, and exporters access to multi-billion dollar markets. With world demand and farm prices at historic lows, these lost market opportunities only worsen the current crises in our farm economy.”In a report completed last August, ASA determined that restrictions on exports to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Cuba and North Korea totaled $554 million annually for soybeans and soy products alone.”Even more damaging than the loss of annual sales to specific countries, unilateral sanctions establish the reputation of the United States as an unreliable supplier,” Yost said. “The willingness of the U.S. government to restrict agricultural exports has therefore had the unexpected effect of encouraging other countries to make long-term plans to secure their food import requirements from other suppliers.”Yost indicated that H.R. 817 would be a positive reform of U.S. economic sanctions policy that began in 1973, which prompted major U.S. soybean customers, such as Japan, to implement long-term investment programs to develop the agricultural potential of South American countries, particularly soybean production in Brazil. Twenty-five years later, Brazil is the United States’ chief competitor for global soybean, soybean oil, and soybean meal markets.ASA is also calling for H.R. 817 to exempt—retroactively as well as proactively—agricultural commodities from unilateral sanctions. Such a provision would force a reevaluation of current U.S. restrictions on exports to Cuba and North Korea, as well as a review of the export licensing requirements now in place for sales to Iran, Libya and Sudan.Yost also described ASA’s objectives for multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks scheduled this fall in Seattle. ASA urged the support of a WTO principle to encourage countries to treat foreign buyers no less favorably than domestic buyers of a commodity or product. Yost also stressed the need for the elimination of non-tariff trade barriers against biotechnology crops. He called for the Administration to be pro-active in defending genetically enhanced crops and products from attacks that have no foundation in scientific fact.