"We came away from the meeting with strong assurances from APHIS officials that they are taking the threat of Asian rust very seriously, and that they are making sure they have the proper inspection, quarantine and treatment controls in place," says ASA Vice President Greg Leonard, a soybean producer from Afton, OK.

ASA’s discussions with APHIS have focused on what steps must be taken to exclude soybean rust that could be present in any imported whole soybeans, contaminated soybean meal or soybean seed for planting, and what action plans are in place should rust enter the U.S. through natural means. ASA asked APHIS to examine fumigation treatments, origin and destination testing, or other quarantine measures to ensure that soybean rust is not introduced into the United States via possible soybean imports from South America.

To address ASA’s concerns, APHIS is undertaking a risk assessment to determine the feasibility and benefits of sampling imports at both the origin and destination to ensure that no viable spores are being transferred, and making sure that proper protocols are in place for imports of planting seed, which has a relatively low potential risk because of the cleaning process.

"In the event that any imports of soybean meal from South America are announced by the trade, ASA encouraged APHIS to closely inspect such shipments and repeat last year’s practice, which required heat-treating of any foreign material that is blended back into processed soybean meal," Leonard says.

This week, APHIS sent a scientist to Brazil to work with Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, and other government and industry sources to learn more about the rust situation. APHIS agreed to provide ASA with regular updates. APHIS is also working with the Agricultural Research Service to make sure APHIS has the latest rust diagnostic tools available in their laboratories to test for and identify soybean rust spores.

"ASA’s objective is to totally prevent the accidental introduction of soybean rust into the United States that might occur with possible imports of South American soybeans, soybean meal, or planting seed," says Leonard. "ASA is working with USDA and the soybean checkoff on the development of soybean rust-resistant varieties, but such varieties still are several years away."

Fungicide treatments currently represent the best option for containing soybean rust. ASA is working with USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy to prepare for the potential arrival of soybean rust, making sure that fungicides are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and widely available for farmers’ use.

"Fungicide treatments, however, would be costly, so we need to do all we can to develop rust-resistant varieties while delaying the introduction of soybean rust into the United States," Leonard concludes.

There only two fungicides currently registered for use in soybeans that have shown effectiveness on soybean rust. Based on trials conducted outside the United States, four additional products have been identified and shown to be effective on soybean rust, but are not currently registered for use in soybeans.

Several companies and key EPA and USDA officials have been contacted for regulatory support of these products and to assure that Section 18 label approvals are expedited if needed. Section 18 labels can be issued for emergency exemption from registration. The approval of these additional products will ensure additional product availability and allow farmers to rotate active ingredients.

Finally, APHIS is ensuring that a surveillance network is set up to monitor any movement of soybean rust out of the areas from which it is known to occur.