US may lack fungicides, equipment for soyrust -GAO
Mon May 23, 2005 02:44 PM ET
WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) - There may not be enough fungicides and application equipment available to U.S. farmers if an outbreak of damaging soybean rust occurs this growing season, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a new report.
The red fungus withers plants, and can slash soybean crop production by up to 80 percent if fields are not promptly treated with chemical sprays.
The windborne disease was discovered in eight Southern states last autumn, and so far this year has been found in Florida and Georgia. Some experts are worried that it could spread into the big soy-growing states of Iowa and Illinois, which last year grew nearly one-third of the nation's 3.1 billion-bushel crop.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, assessed preparations by the U.S. Agriculture Department and 31 individual states to fight soybean rust.
"Fungicides and application equipment may be insufficient to meet the needs of growers, if and when Asian soybean rust occurs," the GAO report said.
Its survey of states found that eight believe they have enough commercial applicators available to farmers who do not own equipment to apply the fungicide needed to fight rust, the GAO said. Another five states said they did not believe there is sufficient equipment, 17 other states said they were uncertain and one did not respond.
The GAO did not identify the states in each category.
"Chemical companies that manufacture fungicides approved by the EPA for use on Asian soybean rust declined to go on record with the quantities they had on hand or planned to manufacture," the GAO said. It did not elaborate.
U.S. farm groups have expressed concern that fungicide supplies may not be large enough to meet demand in the event of an outbreak of soy rust. But makers such as Dow Chemical , Bayer and others have repeatedly said supplies will be adequate this year.
The GAO report, which was prepared at the request of Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, was published on the Internet at http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-668R .
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