Iowa, December 31, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- DTN:
Imports of whole soybeans into the U.S. may have started
already , as domestic supplies continue to dwindle to
the point that running out is becoming a concern. At
the same time, the risk of importing the Asian Soybean
Rust fungus runs high, said one plant pathologist.
At least one shipment of soybeans reportedly could
have been brought into the Houston, Texas, port recently,
according to a USDA official. The amount of soybeans
imported, the company buying the soybeans and where
the soybeans came from was not reported.
The U.S. short crop would serve as a catalyst for soybean
WASDE (World Agricultural Supply/Demand Estimates)
in December estimated that the U.S. could import as
much as 223,000 metric tons in 2003/2004, lower than
the 1996/97 import level of 242,000 metric tons.
In the 1996/1997 short crop year, soybeans were brought
in from Brazil.
Dwain Ford, president of the American Soybean Association,
said the U.S. realistically has few choices to pick
from when importing soybeans. The two choices are Argentina
"These choices are unfortunate ones because both
countries have the soybean rust fungus the U.S. farmer
is trying to avoid," said Ford.
Meanwhile, Ford confirmed that the ASA and USDA have
been discussing possible new rules for soybean imports
in an effort to keep the soybean rust fungus out of
USDA wants to publish the proposed rules by February
2004, possibly before a January 2004 soybean rust meeting
in St. Louis, according to a Sparks Companies report.
The wind-borne fungus attaches to the leaves of soybean
plants and reproduces rapidly, preventing proper plant
development and dramatically reduces crop yields if
Michael McNeill, plant pathologist with Ag Advisory,
LTD, said because soybeans are generally not cleaned
before being shipped, the U.S. is running a serious
risk when importing.
The Sparks report indicated the possible details include
a quarantine (for a designated period of time) of any
Brazilian soybeans and/or a heat- treatment on such
McNeill said the risk of importing soy rust is reduced
if the soybeans are heat-treated before shipment.
"The soy rust spore is relatively easily killed,
cleaning or heat- treatment would both lower the risk
of importing soy rust. These processes would prove to
be very expensive," said McNeill.
Because of the short supply of U.S. soybeans, the ASA
is concerned about the possibility of Brazilian soybean
"There is a good probability we will run out of
soybeans before the next crop," said Ford. "Heat
treatment will kill soy rust in soymeal. But with talk
of bringing in real soybeans, a larger concern prevails."
Ford added, "There isn't enough data to show that
spores won't survive the shipment. So, we have been
discussing with USDA the rules of importation."
Research indicates it's not 100% guaranteed the soy
rust spores would be found when the shipments are checked
at the Brazil port.
"We know the soy rust disease is going to get
here," said Ford. "We just want to avoid getting
it as long as possible. Bringing soy rust in from imported
soybeans is certainly not how we want to get this fungus."
Ford said the USDA rules should be based around the
testing of shipments.
"It's going to be difficult to have Animal Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in Brazil during shipping,"
said Ford. "However, after Brazil not telling the
truth about their planting of biotech soybeans, do we
feel confident enough in them to test the shipments
for soy rust?"
McNeill was quick to point out that current laws allow
foreign soybean shipments to include 3-4% of foreign
"You can bet spores could be in that 3-4%. It
only takes one spore to spread. If we start bringing
in beans from infected countries, we are going to get
caught, simple as that," said McNeill.
Meanwhile, Ford suggested the soybean shipments would
be imported into the New Orleans port, after the operators
in Wilmington, North Carolina, said they wouldn't import
"Regarding the rules, there is a lot to be worked
out between exporters/importers," said Ford.
APHIS would have to follow some strict WTO rules when
considering the import rules regarding what types of
risks there might be with soy rust.
"The economic risk to the U.S. soybean industry
could be quite large. However, the risk of getting soy
rust from a shipment of soybeans may not be as big.
This is what APHIS would have to weigh," said the