December 3, 2004



USDA Fighting to Prevent Asian Rust from Hurting US Soy Exports


The US Department of Agriculture is working to avoid disruptions in US soybean exports after the infectious Asian soybean rust was detected in several US states, said outgoing USDA Secretary Ann Veneman on Thursday.


Veneman acknowledged Mexico's recent decision to tighten regulations on US soybean shipments, but "we are doing absolutely everything we can to make sure that soybean rust does not become a trade issue."


According to Froylan Gracia, agriculture counselor at Mexico's embassy in Washington, the new regulation requires US soybean exports to be certified as containing no more than 1% of "live foreign matter", if the shipments come from US states confirmed to have been hit by the fungus.


Gracia also said that Mexico and the US are in talks over the matter and predicted that US exports will not be diminished by Mexico's actions.


Veneman said USDA officials are reaching out to all trading partners.


On Nov. 10, when USDA confirmed the first finding of Asian soybean rust in Louisiana, USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins cited the fact that Brazil continues to export soybeans to China and forecast that the Asian rust find in the US will not curtail US exports.


The yield-slashing fungus is currently plaguing Brazil, the second- largest soybean producing country behind the US. According to USDA's Economic Research Service, it has spread to 95% of Brazil's farming regions and caused the loss of 3.4 million metric tons of soybeans last year.


US farmers are expected to produce 3.15 billion bushels of soybeans this year, according to the most recent November forecast released by USDA. The export forecast was set at 1.01 billion bushels.

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