Keith Good: Bugs’ Resistance to GMO Corn in Brazil Proving Costly

    Crop Watch

    Reuters writer Caroline Stauffer reported yesterday that, “Genetically modified corn seeds are no longer protecting Brazilian farmers from voracious tropical bugs, increasing costs as producers turn to pesticides, a farm group said on Monday.

    “Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.

    “‘The caterpillars should die if they eat the corn, but since they didn’t die this year producers had to spend on average 120 reais ($54) per hectare … at a time that corn prices are terrible,’ he said.”

    The article added that, “Experts in the United States have also warned about corn production prospects because of a growing bug resistance to genetically modified corn. Researchers in Iowa found significant damage from rootworms in corn fields last year.”

    Cheri Zagurski and Emily Unglesbee reported yesterday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “More than three-quarters of the nation’s corn crop has silked and nearly 20% has moved into the dough stage, according to USDA’s latest weekly Crop Progress report.”

    “Corn condition worsened slightly with one percentage point moving from the good rating [54% to 53%] and into the poor category [75% of the corn crop is rated good to excellent]… . Soybean condition worsened with 71% rated good to excellent, compared to 73% last week.”

    Bloomberg writer Jeff Wilson reported yesterday that, “Soybean futures rose the most in nine weeks on concern that dry weather forecast into August will curtail yields in the U.S., the world’s biggest grower.”

    Also, Bloomberg writer Phoebe Sedgman reported today that, “Australia cut the odds of El Nino, which brings drought to Asia and heavy rain to South America, after parts of the tropical Pacific Ocean cooled.

    “The chance of the pattern developing this year is about 50 percent, the Bureau of Meteorology said in an update on its website. The forecaster lowered its outlook to an El Nino watch from an alert, which was issued on May 6.”

    See also this recent NOAA update titled, “What’s the hold up, El Niño?

    In transportation news, an update yesterday from Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) indicated that, “[Sen. Thune] today announced the release of a new rail service section on his official website where South Dakota shippers concerned with inconsistent rail service can find the latest South Dakota rail developments. On the site, South Dakota shippers and consumers will find the most up-to-date actions taken by Thune, access grain car reports, find contact information for the Surface Transportation Board (STB), and can leave a message for the senator about the problems they’ve experienced.”

    Paul Vieira reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The head of Canada’s biggest railroad Monday said the rail system is ready to handle the coming harvest and urged the Canadian government not to impose a heavier regulatory burden on the movement of grain.”

    In trade news, Bloomberg writer Brian Wingfield reported yesterday that, “Facing tougher sanctions over Ukraine, Russia said yesterday it may ban imports of chicken from the U.S. and fruit from Europe and is investigating McDonald’s Corp. cheese for safety.

    “While Russia and the U.S. have long sparred over agricultural trade, the actions fueled speculation they could be retaliatory. The 28-nation European Union and the U.S. plan to impose stiffer sanctions to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.”

    In a recent letter (July 27) to Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Grains Council Chairman Julius Schaaf indicated in part that, “As you are aware, China this week unofficially announced that it would require official U.S. government certification that export cargoes of DDGS bound for China do not contain even trace levels of MIR 162, a biotech event not yet approved in China. This action is arbitrary, capricious, a major impediment to trade, and a direct threat to the viability not only of DDGS exports but to the U.S. ethanol industry as a whole. I am writing, therefore, to urge your immediate, direct, and personal intervention with your counterpart in China, Agriculture Minister Han, to halt this current regulatory sabotage of the DDGS trade with China.”

    Regulatory Issues

    news release yesterday from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) indicated that, “United States Senators [Gillibrand], Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a letter today to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg requesting information about the FDA’s efforts to curb the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production.

    “‘The use of antibiotics in food-producing animals must be reduced as part of the effort to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics,’ the senators wrote. ‘Research has shown that antibiotic resistant bacteria are most likely to develop when antibiotics are used continuously at low doses – the type of regimen used frequently in food animal production.’

    “In their letter, the senators noted steps the FDA has taken to begin addressing this issue, including issuing guidance on inappropriate antibiotic use for growth promotion, calling for pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily remove these uses from product labels, and requiring more veterinary oversight of antibiotic use in food animals. The senators explained, ‘While these new policies are important first steps, we remain concerned that they may not be sufficient to effectively curtail the routine use of dangerously low doses of antibiotics for the duration of an animal’s life. . . . The benefits of this change will be negligible . . . if the same animals can continue receiving the same antibiotics at the same doses.'”

    Also yesterday, the “Washington Insider” section of DTN (link requires subscription) noted that, “Few public concerns have deeper or more controversial roots than those regarding the growing bacterial resistance to modern drugs. Because much of the nation’s drug use is for livestock, many activist groups have been pressing the Food and Drug Administration for tougher regulations. However, a recent federal appeals court decision reversed two lower court rulings and appears to make bans on antibiotics in livestock less likely.

    “The decision came as a surprise to many observers, and certainly appears to support FDA’s strategy of building voluntary programs to curb antibiotics overuse by livestock operations.

    “The decision itself was by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. Specifically, it means FDA is no longer required to proceed with hearings to determine whether to withdraw approval of medically important antibiotics use in livestock feed. Earlier district court rulings would have required the hearings.”

    The DTN item added that, “It is not completely clear why FDA did not go forward with hearings, but it is clear that proposals to largely prohibit livestock antibiotic use were enormously unpopular among livestock producers and their supporters in Congress. Important Congressional committees said they wouldn’t approve the hearing process unless they had conclusive evidence linking overuse of antibiotics in livestock to human health. So far, experts conclude, that evidence has not been found.”

    Meanwhile, Tim Devaney reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking to relax import restrictions on some Mexican pork that were put in place to prevent pigs with swine fever from coming into the country.

    “The USDA said Monday it is looking to establish new safeguards for Mexican farmers that raise and slaughter pigs, which are intended to limit the spread of swine fever among pigs.

    “Farmers that follow these proposed rules would be allowed to export pork to the U.S.”

    And Jerry Hagstrom reported earlier this week at National Journal Online that, “Is it worth the effort for an Environmental Protection Agency administrator in a Democratic administration to meet with her farm, ranch, and Republican critics?

    “Or should she stay safely among her environmental and conservation supporters in Washington and the coastal cities and just push ahead?”

    The National Journal article noted that, “EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who is under fire in rural America for a ‘Waters of the United States’ rule that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed in April, has been making the effort, with a trip to Missouri early in July and a meeting last week with Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee who have been asking for a sit-down since May.

    “The outreach hasn’t stopped the criticism, but McCarthy told [Hagstrom] in an interview Thursday that she feels the effort has been worth it. McCarthy said the trip to Missouri was ‘a signal that this rule is very important to EPA.’ On Capitol Hill she said she learned that ‘EPA speaks with a lot of technical language and science. It is not readily translated into what is clear on the ground for the farm community.'”

    news release yesterday from Sen. John Hoeven (R., N.D.) stated that, “[Hoeven], a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, met last week with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to press again for the agency to abandon its proposed ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule. Hoeven said farmers and ranchers are concerned by the proposal that significantly expands EPA authority to regulate small wetlands, creeks, stock ponds and ditches under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

    “‘We made it clear to the Administrator that the EPA needs to abandon this proposed rule,’ said Hoeven. ‘Their proposal is causing uncertainty for our farmers and ranchers and making it more difficult and more expensive for our producers to do their jobs. The last thing they need is the burden of additional regulations and litigation.'”

    Farm Bill

    Dave Russell reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “Over 200 farmers attended a Farm Bill Implementation Forum at Bowling Green State University on Friday, July 25.

    “Sponsored by Ohio Farmers Union the Forum was designed to provide insight into what the new Farm Bill provides and while complex, Joe Shultz, Chief Economist for the Senate Agriculture Committee says it also provides farmers with options.

    “‘It does look a lot different than the previous Farm Bills, but I think that reflects the diversity of agriculture and really the strength of American agriculture,’ said Shultz. ‘It will be a good bill and it offer some real options to producers.'”

    The update noted that, “‘We’ve also provided more tools for farmers to get educated, the Farm Bill provides some money for outreach and education meetings, we’re also providing some online decision making tools so producers can enter their data, their farm history online and get some good information about which decision makes the most sense for their operation,’ Shultz said.”

    The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released a report yesterday (“Additionality in U.S. Agricultural Conservation and Regulatory Offset Programs“) which noted in part that, “‘Additionality’ is achieved when a conservation program payment results in actions that improve environmental performance of the farm and that would not have occurred without the payment. ERS estimates additionality in various programs.”

    The ERS report added that, “The Federal Government spent more than $6 billion in fiscal year 2013 on voluntary conservation payment programs to encourage the adoption of a wide range of conservation practices that address multiple environmental and resource conservation goals…When a voluntary payment causes a change in practice(s) that leads to improved environmental quality, these changes are ‘additional.’ For any type of voluntary payment, there is some risk that the farmers or ranchers who receive them would have adopted the required practice(s), even without the payment. This study measures additionality for a number of common conservation practices typically supported by voluntary conservation payments and examines ways to increase additionality.”

    In part, the ERS report added that, “For existing conservation programs, high levels of additionality are observed for structural practices, which tend to be expensive to install and often yield modest onfarm benefits, at least in the short run. For soil conservation structures (terraces, grade stabilization, and water and sediment basins) and buffer practices (filter strips, riparian buffers, grassed waterways, and field borders) we estimated that 82 and 80 percent of farms applying these practices, respectively, would not have done so without a conservation payment to help defray costs. On many farms, the cost of installing these practices is likely to exceed the extra profit or other benefits that the farmer expects to receive, even though there can be significant benefits to society through environmental gain and maintenance of long-term soil productivity.

    “For conservation management practices, the evidence on additionality in existing programs is mixed. Our estimate of additionality in conservation tillage is low relative to our estimates for structural practices (56 percent), although it is higher than a previous estimate. For nutrient management, we estimate that farmers who receive payments are much more likely to have written nutrient management plans. For an estimated 88 percent of farms that have written nutrient or manure management plans, conservation payments prompted plan development.”

    Meanwhile, an update yesterday at the ERS charts gallery indicated that, “Federal eligibility rules for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) stipulate that households must meet three financial criteria: gross income, net income, and asset limits.States using broad-based categorical eligibility criteria are allowed to eliminate the asset limit and increase the monthly gross income limit from 130 percent of the Federal poverty line up to 200 percent when determining SNAP eligibility. This new eligibility option is among the many legislative and regulatory efforts to simplify SNAP administration and increase program access, especially for low-income working families. During the discussions leading up to the Agricultural Act of 2014, concerns were raised that the broad-based categorical eligibility option had allowed assistance to expand beyond the poorest Americans. In 2012, 5.2 percent of SNAP households had incomes above 130 percent of the Federal poverty line–compared to 1.0 percent in 2000–and they received 1.5 percent of total SNAP benefits[related chart].”

    In other policy related developments, a news release yesterday from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) stated that, “[NASS] today released the 2012 Census of Agriculture Congressional District Profiles for the 113th Congress.”


    Timothy Cama reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Monday that he had proposed amendments that would restore the tax credits for wind energy and biodiesel production.

    “Both measures would amend the Bring Jobs Home Act, which seeks to discourage outsourcing jobs by ending certain tax credits. The wind and biodiesel incentives, popular in Iowa because they benefits industries common to the state, expired last year.”

    Climate Issues

    Timothy Cama reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Food producer General Mills Inc. committed Monday to reducing climate change-causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its entire supply chain, including the farms that produce its ingredients.

    “The company behind brands like Cheerios, Betty Crocker and Häagen-Dazs set GHG targets for its own operations in 2005, but Monday’s announcement goes much further.  Its latest climate commitment also covers water use and waste.”

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