The General Accountability Office issued a report Tuesday noting that the USDA's actions in advance of a potential outbreak of Asian Soybean Rust were exemplary. However, the GAO questioned moves going into 2006 with the sentinel plot program no longer in the hands of USDA headquarters, but being run by a land grant university.
In addition, the report says more work is needed on the individual reporting activities of states with sentinel plots. For example, last season one state filed just four reports while another filed more than 160, a disparity that GAO says needs correcting. The American Soybean Association responded to the report expressing what it called "cautious optimism" about U.S. preparedness against the crop disease. The GAO reported was released by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
ASA noted in its response to the report that is believes the following:
- USDA's surveillance system - coordinated framework - was invaluable to soybean growers in 2005 and ASA will work closely with the agency to build upon the 2005 program.
- Continued, predictable funding for ASR surveillance and reporting is critical. ASA strongly supports the Presidents fiscal year 2007 budget request to provide $2.77 million for the ASR surveillance program.
- ASA remains concerned about the availability of fungicides and calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve pending applications for soybean rust fungicides.