In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, NFU President Dave Frederickson said he was concerned about "the failure thus far to establish an effective program that will protect the U.S. soybean production industry from the potential for large crop and economic losses due to soybean rust."
The Farmers Union leader urged the secretary to ban the importation of soybeans and other disease hosts originating in rust-infected countries due to the significant risk they pose to the U.S. soybean industry. Soybean rust has resulted in production losses of 10 to 80 percent of growers' crops in other countries where the disease currently exists.
Frederickson said that such a ban would have a limited impact on the users of imported soybeans, since that volume represents less than one-third of 1 percent of total U.S. supplies and has a relative farm-gate value of about $60 million. "This inconvenience to a few processors must be compared to the potential cost of the disease to U.S. producers," he said.
"While we are under no illusion that over time soybean rust may spread to the United States via its principle method of distribution – wind, we do not believe it is in our national interest to facilitate its introduction into the U.S. through imports of crops that may be infected," Frederickson said.
The Soybean Farmers of America and the American Farm Bureau Federation have previously called for bans on the imports of soybeans to try to stem or delay the introduction of the disease into the United States.
Frederickson said that while producers in some of these countries have implemented partial disease control programs through the use of pesticides, the cost of post infection control measures if required in the United States far exceeds any potential economic burden that would be associated with an import ban.
“Furthermore, the cost of pesticide treatments to control a disease, which heretofore has not been detected in the U.S., will serve to greatly increase the production expenses of soybeans to our producers reducing their financial returns and making them less competitive in both the U.S. and foreign markets,” he noted.
“We urge you to give serious consideration to immediately implementing a ban on the imports of soybean rust host materials until such time as appropriate and effective border inspection, quarantine and treatment measures can be put in place which will help protect our domestic soybean industry from significant economic damage due to this disease.