USDA Won't Ban Brazilian Soybeans

The USDA does not plan to impose any restrictions on imports of South American soy products despite a recent outbreak of a contagious soybean fungus there, department officials said on Thursday.

"Our current safeguards are adequate enough to keep soybean rust out of the country," said Stephen Poe, plant pathologist with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Brazil has found the Asian rust fungus in 2.6% of its soy belt, posing a major threat to the world's No. 2 producer of soybeans. The USDA said it also detected the fungus in Argentina and Paraguay.

Scientists believe spores of the fungus have probably been carried by air currents from Asia and Africa. The fungus, which thrives in humid regions was first discovered in Japan in 1902, but showed up in Africa in the 1990s. It has caused losses up to 70% in some crops in Zimbabwe and Taiwan in recent years.

Three to four ships, containing about 180,000 metric tons of Brazilian soymeal, are expected to arrive in North Carolina in July, according to USDA and industry sources.

U.S. Calls For Export Subsidy Deadline

The United States on Tuesday called on the World Trade Organization to set a five-year deadline for members to end all agricultural export subsidies. Not surprisingly, the European Union rejected the U.S. call, saying it was too early to talk about deadlines.

A spokesman for EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler, said the Commission's stance had not changed since the deal reached at Doha, Qatar last year to launch a new WTO round on further global trade liberalization.

"We have been extremely clear about our position. We are prepared to substantially reduce our export subsidies with a view to phasing them out -- the famous Doha phrase -- only if other trade distorting measures are treated equally," he told Reuters News Service.

Trade negotiators were in Geneva for two days of preliminary discussions in preparation for farm trade talks set for June 17-21. Thise talks will be the first serious WTO negotiations on agricultural issues since the Doha round was launched last November.