Monsanto on dicamba
Monsanto is standing by its dicamba herbicide amid reports of possible drift, a product it says was thoroughly tested for 10 years before it was granted EPA approval. Monsanto’s chief technology officer Rob Fraley told reporters many farmers and consultants he’s met with say off-label use of older dicamba products is high – up to 25 percent of applications in some places. “Many noted that the sales of these products spiked this year despite the fact that corn and wheat acres were down,” he said.
H-2A visa change
On July 18, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $44.3 billion fiscal 2018 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that includes funding for some of Trump’s key immigration enforcement policies. One approved amendment makes a major change in the H-2A agricultural guest worker program. The provision would allow H-2A visas to be used for year-round farm workers. The program is now limited to seasonal employees, which is a major problem for dairy producers.
Tax credit phase-out?
Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) introduced legislation to extend the biodiesel blenders tax credit and phase the incentive out by 2022. Under the proposed phase-out, the value for the blenders tax credit would be $1 per gallon in 2017 to 2018, 75 cents in 2019, and 50 cents in 2020 through 2021. The tax credit would sunset Dec. 31, 2021. The National Biodiesel Board does not support phasing out the biodiesel tax incentive.
China OKs crops
China has approved two more genetically modified (GMO) crops for import, the country’s ag ministry announced July 19, the second such move in the past month. As part of its 100-day trade talks with the United States, China promised to speed up biotech approvals. Beijing gave the green light to Syngenta’s 5307 insect-resistant corn sold under the Agrisure Duracade brand and Monsanto’s 87427 glyphosate-resistant corn, which is sold under the Roundup Ready brand. Four other products owned by Monsanto, Dupont and Dow are still awaiting approval. The decision took effect July 16 and will last three years.
Dow wants answers
Dow AgriScience is pressing China to clarify its position on its Enlist soybeans, the company told Reuters July 18. As part of its 100-day trade talks with the U.S., China pledged to review eight biotech crops awaiting approval. As noted above, the country approved two new biotech crops for import on July 19, after giving two other products the green light earlier. Four other biotech crops, including Dow’s Enlist beans, an insect-resistant corn from DuPont or two alfalfa products from Monsanto, are still in limbo.
BSE in Alabama
An 11-year-old cow in Alabama has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as mad cow disease). The cow tested positive for the atypical L-type of BSE after showing clinical signs at an Alabama livestock market, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency emphasized that “This animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States.” It added that the atypical case won’t change the negligible risk status of the U.S., nor should it lead to any trade issues. However, South Korea’s agriculture ministry said it will strengthen quarantine measures on U.S. beef starting July 19.
Brazilian Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi was more upbeat than USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue about his country’s chances to start exporting beef again to the U.S. The two met July 17. Maggi said he expects the U.S. to lift the ban in one or two months. Perdue seemed less optimistic than Maggi about the resumption of trade. “Open dialogue is good, but we need to see progress,” Perdue said.
Maggi acknowledged that U.S. inspectors were finding bones in Brazilian shipments, with concerns that foot and mouth virus can hide in bone marrow.
Leaders want role in trade talks
Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee sent a letter July 17 to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, insisting that he first consult with Congress before trying to negotiate changes to the U.S. trade pact with South Korea (KORUS). The Trump administration last week notified South Korea that it wanted a bilateral meeting to discuss altering KORUS. U.S. beef industry leaders like the existing KORUS language regarding beef trade, with the U.S. gaining market share due to lower tariffs and even lower levels ahead.