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Sen. Feingold urges action against soybean rust

(Friday, Jan. 9, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release:

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Russ Feingold today asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for details regarding its plans to prevent the devastating Asian soybean rust fungus from entering the U.S. and to respond to the appearance of the fungus in the U.S. In a letter to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Mr. Bobby Acord, Feingold asked how his service plans to address the concerns of U.S. soybean growers that this fungus may enter the country.

"In Wisconsin, soybeans are grown on over 1.5 million acres and in 2002 were valued at over $210 million," the letter read. "Asian soybean rust could have a devastating impact on the fourth most valuable commodity in Wisconsin. After watching the spread of this devastating fungus across the globe, many farmers in Wisconsin are concerned that it may be a matter of time before it arrives in this country. On behalf of my constituents, I would like to know how the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) is addressing this concern."

Asian soybean rust attacks soybean crops and has caused tremendous devastation in other countries such as Zimbabwe, South Africa, Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Some of these countries have seen yield losses of nearly 80%. Such losses would be a tremendous financial blow to farmers in Wisconsin and across the country.

"I am aware that APHIS has developed a strategic plan to minimize the impact of this disease on U.S. soybean production," the letter read. "I would like to know the extent of the plan's implementation and the progress on the various initiatives outlined therein. I would also like to know how APHIS is currently handling imported soybean and soybean meal as well as if there any plans to increase protections at our borders. Finally...I would like to know what plans APHIS has if Asian soybean rust appears in the U.S."