The American Soybean Association (ASA) expressed cautious optimism about U.S. preparedness for defense against Asian soybean rust as outlined in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Overall, the GAO report found that USDA has done a solid job of monitoring cases of soybean rust in the U.S. and taking steps to help U.S. farmers prepare to combat the disease. At the same time, the report warns that soybean rust still poses a large threat to U.S. farmers and highlights shortfalls and needed improvements.

"We appreciate Senator Harkin initiating this top to bottom GAO review of USDA’s defenses against soybean rust in the U.S.," says ASA President Bob Metz, a soybean grower from South Dakota. "We applaud USDA’s efforts to combat the disease in 2005 and look forward to continued progress in 2006 and beyond. Pooling our collective resources, strengthening coordination and communication between federal and state governments and the soybean industry, and providing adequate federal funding will help ensure the best defense against ASR."

Specifically, ASA believes:

USDA’s surveillance system (coordinated framework) was invaluable to soybean growers in 2005. ASA will work closely with USDA to build upon the successful 2005 program.

Continued, predictable funding for ASR surveillance and reporting is critical. ASA strongly supports the President’s FY 2007 budget request to provide $2.77 million for the soybean rust surveillance program.

ASA remains concerned about the availability of fungicides and calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve pending applications for soybean rust fungicides.

"Soybean farmers remain committed to bringing rust-resistant varieties of soybeans to market as quickly as possible," Metz adds. "We’re hopeful that USDA will continue to make progress in strengthening our defense against and preparation for soybean rust in this country. We stand ready to work together to develop the best possible solutions to this continuing threat."