May 24, 2015

USDA “Disappointed” In EPA’s Neonicotinoid Assessment

NeonicThe discussion around the risk and rewards of using neonicotinoid seed treatments got a shot in the arm last month.  A recent letter from United States Department of Agriculture to the Environmental Protection Agency expressed USDA’s disappointment in EPA recent evaluation of neonicotinoid seed treatments, calling it “incomplete”.

In October 2014, EPA issued a report indicating there are no clear or consistent economic benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments in soybeans—a conclusion USDA said is not only false, but has again put growers in a position where they must defend their pest management decisions.

“As a whole, USDA disagrees with that assessment,” USDA states in a letter sent to EPA in April, “We believe that pest management  strategies are made in consideration  of pest pressures,  climate, landscape  and numerous  other factors.”

USDA stressed that growers should have the ability to use the best tools available to manage pests, including choice in seed treatment and pest management tactics based on what works for individual situations.

“Unfortunately, EPA’s conclusions are not supported by complete data nor analysis. EPA’s analysis does not include potential labor and management savings afforded by seed treatments,” USDA states in the letter. “Moreover, it does not consider cases when timely foliar applications are not possible or as effective due to general field and weather conditions. EPA’s calculation does not include any additional regulatory expenditure by landowners, such as costs to revise pesticide permit applications, or costs to submit new applications for foliar spraying.”

USDA also points out that EPA’s analysis does not consider other benefits of using neonicotinoids, including protection from the wide range of pests or minimizing the exposure of non-target insects.

For a full copy of USDA’s letter click Here



Concerns Linger for Biodiesel Industry

Although the Environmental Protection Agency plans to release three years’ worth of volume requirements under the Renewable Fuels standard this year, the uncertainty has caused segments of the biodiesel industry to go into shutdown mode.

New numbers from the Biotechnology Industry Organization this week indicated the delays are partly responsible for billions of dollars of lost investment needed to meet RFS goals for advanced biofuels like biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, says several biodiesel plants have throttled back production or totally shut down over the past 18 months.

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Industry efforts continue to focus on helping the EPA implement the RFS volumes in a timely fashion.

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RFS volumes aren’t the only hurdle the biodiesel industry is facing.  A biodiesel blender’s tax credit expired at the end of 2014 — and the EPA recently announced it would allow increased biodiesel imports from Argentina to enter the United States.

Despite the uncertainties, Steckel says the industry continues to look for ways to expand market access.

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According to the NBB, the biodiesel industry supported more than 62,000 jobs in 2013, with plants in nearly every state in the country.  A 2014 survey of biodiesel producers found that more than half had idled their plants, and 78 percent had reduced production compared with 2013.


Debate Grows Around Reauthorization of Grain Standards Act

The Senate Ag Committee is starting work to reauthorize the Grain Standards Act – but the issue of private versus government inspectors could complicate the task. The National Farmers Union is urging the Senate to pass a clean Grain Standards bill – calling the current system the World’s Gold Standard.  NFU Chief Roger Johnson has written Ag Chair Pat Roberts and Top Ag Democrat Debbie Stabenow asking that private grain inspectors not be used to replace government inspectors…

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But Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley feels privatization will not cost integrity…

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The way Grassley sees it…tape

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But NFU is also concerned the Grain Standards Act renewal may eliminate the Ag Secretary’s discretion to send in inspectors – and the timeframe in which the grain inspection service must respond to a disruption. NFU’s Johnson says a House Ag-passed bill removes the Ag Secretary’s discretion to intervene in a timely way during disruptions – like the recent West Coast ports dispute – and allows some privatization through state-designated inspectors.

American Soybean Association Director Bill Gordon also testified before the Senate Ag Committee Tuesday called.  He called on the committee to help ensure grain inspections under the Grain Standards Act remain mandatory and continuous – even in the event of a work stoppage due to strike or lockout. Gordon encouraged the Committee to engage USDA on whether it has discretion to clarify when and how it will act to resolve a disruption of export inspection services by delegated state agencies. If the discussion is in any way inconclusive – the American Soybean Association believes the Committee should strengthen the language in the Act requiring FGIS to take action according to a fixed timetable based on a number of hours rather than days or weeks. ASA also recommends any state agency that withdraws services be suspended until USDA completes a review that confirms the agency is capable of resuming services without further interruption.