February 12, 2004
Soymeal and Soybean Seed Imports From Brazil, Argentina Deemed Safe
A U.S. Department of Agriculture official has on Wednesday, pronounced soymeal and soybean seeds import from Brazil and Argentina safe despite the presence of the Asian rust fungus in the two countries.
The fungus can cut yields by as much as 80 percent. With home-grown soybeans and soy products in short supply, U.S. soymeal imports could triple to 430,000 tonnes this marketing year, the government estimates. Soybean imports would double.
An Iowa congressman filed a bill last week to ban imports of soybeans and soymeal from Brazil and Argentina, where soybean rust is a problem.
"Preliminary results indicate the importation of clean soybean seed and heat-treated soymeal, consistent with industry standards, pose a negligible risk of soybean rust contamination," said Bob Spaide, acting deputy director for pest detection and management practice at USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
During a telephone news conference organized by the American Soybean Association, Spaide said heat treatment during processing killed fungal spores.
USDA was conducting an assessment of the risk associated with imports of bulk soybeans. One USDA official indicated during the teleconference that the assessment might be made public in the next week or two.
ASA president Ron Heck said his group "did not ask for a ban" on imports. Last week, an ASA official said APHIS should deny entry to bulk soybeans from rust-infected countries. On Monday, Heck said in a statement "the only prudent course of action is to avoid imports from diseased areas until APHIS completes its risk assessment."
USDA officials said the northern most area with soybean rust fungus in South America was Balsas, in Maranhao state in northeast Brazil. Scientists say winds eventually will carry the fungus to the U.S. southeast.