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SPA calls for ban on soybean imports from countries with rust disease

(Sunday, Jan. 4, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Cheryl Rainford, Agriculture Online: The American Soybean Association (ASA) has invited all soybean producers, members and non-members alike, to attend a free Soybean Rust Conference next week in Saint Louis, Missouri. Participants will get the "inside scoop" on how ASA is working with the federal government and industry to safeguard the US crop from this disease.

Meantime, the outspoken leader of a rival producers' group says it is not enough to suggest USDA should develop rules for imported soybeans as the ASA proposes. They're calling for an outright ban on imports from countries known to have rust.

At the ASA conference, representatives from APHIS will join with scientists and industry experts to explain the facts about soybean rust. Participants will also get the "inside scoop" on how ASA is working with the federal government and industry to safeguard the US crop from this disease.

Meantime, rival producers' group, the Soybean Producers of America (SPA), says it is urging USDA to immediately halt all shipments of soybeans and soybean products into the US from nations that have Asian rust contamination.

"It is not enough to suggest to USDA that they try to develop rules for imported soybeans as proposed by the American Soybean Association (ASA). Farmers do not want the imported soybeans here and strongly believe that the imports should not be allowed," says Harvey Joe Sanner, Executive Director of the SPA.

Offical word on the fungus

Asian rust is a serious pest of soybeans. The fungus can drastically reduce soybean yields. It is currently causing crop losses in South America and South Africa.

USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Agency (APHIS) says the disease has not yet been detected in the continental US, but the fact that it is principally spread by wind-borne spores indicates it may eventually reach major soybean growing areas in this country.

Soybean rust is caused by two fungal species, Phakopsora pachyrhizi and Phakopsora meibomiae. It has been reported in countries inc luding Australia, China, Korea, India, Japan, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

P. meibomiae was reported in Puerto Rico in 1976, but this species has proven to be a weak pathogen. Phakopsora pachyrhizi, which is much more aggressive, was reported in Hawaii in 1995. Recent introductions of P. pachyrhizi in other parts of the world show a rapid spread causing severe damage in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Paraguay, and Brazil. Yield losses have been reported from 10-80%, according to APHIS.

News reports indicate that some whole soybeans have already been imported at Houston, Texas, Sanner says. "Disease-free US beans are available to meet current demand. If the US soybean supply is depleted this summer, then and only then should we consider imports that have been properly inspected and treated for Asian Rust," he says.

SPA says it will ask Congress to instruct USDA to prohibit soy or soy product imports.

The ASA conference will be held on Thursday, January 8, 2004 in Saint Louis, Missouri. Registration is free but is required for all participants. You can get more information and sign up for the program at www.SoyGrowers.com.