HEAD OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
WOTUS-repeal measures move ahead. Two House spending bills targeting the Obama-era “waters of the U.S.” rule are closer to becoming law.
The House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal 2018 energy and water spending bill last Wednesday, and the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the EPA sent its spending bill to the full committee for consideration this week.
Together, the bills authorize EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the “waters of the U.S.” rule by bypassing the notice-and-comment process that are normally required by the Administrative Procedure Act to repeal a rule.
EPA To Hold Hearing on RFS – The EPA has scheduled a hearing in Washington on August 1 on the proposed biofuel usage mandates for 2018. The hearing is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. EDT and end “when all parties present who wish to speak have had an opportunity to do so.”
Support floods in for USDA deputy pick. The Trump administration announced late Friday its choice of American Soybean Association CEO Stephen Censky to get the number-two spot at USDA, and farm groups are expressing a lot of support.
“Steve knows first-hand the importance of increasing global demand for U.S. agricultural products, growing the renewable fuels industry, and protecting risk-management programs,” said National Corn Growers Association President Wesley Spurlock. “His background and experience are especially welcome as we begin to shape the next farm bill.”
While many are happy with Censky’s nomination, there are still a lot of high-level positions vacant at USDA, and farm groups and lawmakers are getting impatient.
“Two weeks ago, we called on President Trump to fill out the entire leadership team at USDA. With the rural economy struggling, USDA needs a full leadership team to serve the interests of farmers, ranchers, and consumers,” Spurlock said Friday. “We’re pleased to see a strong, experienced deputy nominated … We urge the President to continue moving forward with other USDA nominations.”
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China OKs two GMO products for import
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2017 – China has approved two more genetically modified products for import, which should leave four products awaiting decisions from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MOA). But Dow AgroSciences said today that the ministry is “now indicating that Enlist soybeans is not covered” by a 100-day economic action plan announced by the U.S. and Chinese governments in May.
The ministry has approved Syngenta’s Agrisure Duracade corn, engineered to be resistant to corn rootworm, and Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn. Dow received import approval last month for Enlist corn, which China approved along with a Monsanto soybean variety, Vistive Gold. At the time, Dow said it had received inquiries from China’s National Biosafety Committee about Enlist soybeans and planned to address those questions quickly.
Today, Dow AgroSciences said it “understands Enlist soybeans was considered one of ‘the eight pending biotechnology traits’ by the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 100-day initiative referenced in the (U.S.-China) joint release on May 10.
“We are seeking to clarify MOA’s position related to Enlist soybeans, and we will continue to work cooperatively with MOA to ensure this much-needed new technology will soon be available to farmers located in the U.S. and throughout the Americas,” Dow said.
The other three traits awaiting a decision, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), are two Monsanto Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties and DuPont Pioneer’s insect-resistant Qrome corn.
The approvals came on Day 64 of the 100-day initiative. And while the Chinese announcement was welcomed by Syngenta and Monsanto, there also was criticism for the continued delay in approval of the other biotech traits.
“While we welcome news that China has issued two new product import approvals, including one Monsanto trait approval that had been pending for approximately 60 months, it is disappointing that not all six of the industry products in the late stage of review received approvals,” Monsanto said. “This is inconsistent with numerous scientific conclusions around the world on these same products, as well as with the spirit of the U.S.-China 100-day plan.”
The two GMO alfalfa varieties have been waiting six years for a decision by China.
DuPont Pioneer said it was continuing to work with Chinese regulators to receive import approval of its corn trait. “We are disappointed China did not approve the trait since it has been approved for several years in the U.S. and other import markets,” the company said.
BIO said it “remains focused on achieving full success as part of the U.S.-China 100-day plan.”
“As the U.S. and Chinese governments meet this week as part of the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, industry urges the governments to provide additional clarity regarding the implementation of this agreement to ensure that the process is completed and all eight products are approved without delay,” BIO said. “On average, the eight products have been pending Chinese approval for five years and already have been approved in multiple markets around the world.”
David Hollinrake, president of Syngenta Seeds LLC, said in a news release that the Chinese decision “opens up new opportunities within our portfolio. Moving forward, growers can expect expanded access to the full depth and breadth of our genetic portfolio with more choice and exciting new hybrids that offer elite genetics plus the latest in corn rootworm control technology.”
Syngenta, which now has no traits pending a decision in China, said the Duracade approval covers corn grain and processing co-products, including distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGs), for food and feed use.
Corn rootworm costs U.S. growers more than $1 billion per year in yield losses and control costs, the company said, citing a USDA study that showed Duracade reduced adult beetle emergence by 99.7 percent, “higher than any other current rootworm product on the market.”
Syngenta will continue to offer Agrisure Duracade for the 2017 and 2018 planting seasons under its grain-use marketing program. “We will continue to provide support to
Agrisure Duracade growers, ensuring confidence in grain marketing options,” Hollinrake said. “With this approval, we are working to identify additional accepting locations, offering even more opportunities to market Agrisure Duracade grain.”
Agrisure Duracade is one of two varieties – Agrisure Viptera being the other – at the center of class-action complaints from thousands of growers who claim that Syngenta jumped the gun by marketing seed to U.S. farmers before China had granted import approval. Last month, a federal jury awarded more than 7,000 Kansas growers $217.7 million following a trial.
Syngenta has consistently maintained that corn prices were falling even before China halted imports of U.S. corn in November 2013 after finding traces of the Viptera GMO trait. The country granted approval of that trait in December 2014.
Following the trial verdict, Syngenta said Viptera “had also received approval in the key import markets recommended at the time by the National Corn Growers Association and other industry associations.”