After months of reports and warnings about Asian soybean rust, it's hard to believe the nation isn't ready for a potential onslaught by the fungal invader that landed last November along the U.S. Gulf Coast. But that could be the case, according to a report by the investigative arm of Congress that was released Friday.
A study by the General Accountability Office says that USDA has not provided enough resources to monitor the path of Asian soybean rust. It also found that USDA's Risk Management Agency hasn't cleared up confusion over "good farming practices" that are required for crop insurance to cover any damage.
And, said the GAO report, states that could be in the path of the dreaded scourge are worried that not enough chemicals and equipment will be available to treat soybeans.
Tom Harkin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, released the report Friday. He sent letters to Ag Secretary Mike Johanns and EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson urging them to improve efforts to monitor and treat the disease.
"The administration cannot wait for potentially massive losses to soybean yields to materialize," Harkin said in a statement to the press. "We have time to make the necessary improvements, and I call on the administration to act immediately to prepare for the possible spread of Asian soybean rust. Soybean crops in Southern states are already approaching the growing stage where plants will be vulnerable to this disease."
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