Inadequate fungicide supplies threaten US soy industry
fungicide supplies may be inadequate to control a major outbreak of
soybean rust, reports Anthony Fletcher.
In testimony before a joint hearing of a Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management and the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development and Research, ASA President Neal Bredehoeft said that a shortage of supplies and application equipment should be the government's top priority.
"Fungicide availability and soybean rust research are two areas of paramount concern to ASA," said Bredehoeft. "ASA is strongly encouraging the USDA to take the steps necessary to protect the future of the $18 billion U.S. soybean industry."
Indeed the U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA's Economic Research Service has warned that if an outbreak of soy rust did occur, the country's economy could lose between $240 million and $2 billion annually, depending on the severity of the crisis. The United States currently supplies about 40 percent of the world's soybean trade.
As a result the ASA is calling for the USDA to take the leadership role in coordinating with fungicide manufacturers and distributors to determine what supplies are available and make sure they are accessible to farmers across the country. The association is also strongly encouraging the USDA to take steps so that farmers have confidence in availability of the products they need, when they need them, at a reasonable price.
"ASA also has asked Congress for an additional $2.1 million in soybean rust research for FY2006," said Bredehoeft. "Developing rust-resistant soybean varieties is the long-term solution to economically and successfully conquering soybean rust disease."
The emergence of Asian soybean rust in the US has caused consternation in parts of the country. The disease is new to the States, having arrived after soybeans were already harvested in November 2004.
The arrival of soybean rust has coincided with a rapid increase in demand for soybean products. Demand for soy oil, proteins, isoflavones and even milk has rocketed on the back of consumer demand for health-positioned food products.
Over 5 percent of US soybean producers intend to decrease acres due to rust, said a recent report by the Delta Farm Press, though most still remain unconcerned about the disease. Farmers most concerned are located in the Southeast, where 29 percent of soybean producers said that rust was a factor in their planting decisions.
Of this group, 63 percent said they intended to decrease acreage because of the affliction.
Nationally, soybean producers intend to plant 73.9 million acres in 2005, according to the USDA. This figure is down 2 percent from last year's record-high acreage. Of the 31 soybean producing states, growers in 16 states intend to plant fewer acres this year, while producers in 11 states intend to plant more acres than in 2004. The largest acreage declines are in the Dakotas.