ASGA: In The News... USDA Reveals Next Step on Sugarbeets

Published online: Sep 07, 2010 www.americansugarbeet.org
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USDA News Release USDA Announces Next Steps on Sugar Beets 09-01-10 WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced the agency's next steps in response to a recent court decision on Roundup Ready sugar beets. "USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service must chart a course for compliance with its statutory authorities and environmental statutes, such as NEPA, while USDA works to create the environment where all types of producers can and do produce all types of crops," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The steps we have outlined today not only respond to the concerns of producers while complying with the court's ruling, but also further USDA's continuing efforts to enable coexistence among conventional, organic, and biotechnology production systems." APHIS announced the following steps: APHIS has received applications from and is issuing permits to sugar beet seed producers to authorize "steckling" (i.e seedlings) production this fall under strict permit conditions that would not allow flowering of the stecklings. APHIS anticipates that issuance of such non-flowering permits can be completed in the next 2 weeks. APHIS has also received and is evaluating a request for a partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets. In connection with this evaluation, APHIS is developing an appropriate environmental analysis to inform its decision making regarding this request to authorize future seed and root crop plantings under a combination of permits, administrative orders, or other regulatory measures. Any regulatory measures taken would include mitigating restrictions consistent with those proposed to the Court as interim measures while APHIS completes the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the petition for determination of non-regulated status for GE sugar beets. APHIS anticipates making decisions on appropriate interim regulatory measures by the end of the year. There will be an opportunity for public comment on any environmental analyses developed. APHIS will continue to place a priority on the expedited completion of the EIS, a process that is anticipated to take 2 years. The Court's ruling does return genetically engineered sugar beets to regulated status, but does not apply to genetically engineered sugar beet root and seed crops that were planted by August 13, 2010. The genetically engineered sugar beet root crop that has already been planted may be processed and sold as sugar. The genetically engineered sugar beet seed crop that has already been planted may be harvested and stored. The Court's ruling does not preclude the appropriate exercise of APHIS' administrative discretion to authorize the future planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets pursuant to USDA's regulatory authority and biotechnology regulations. U.S. Representative Earl Pomeroy News Release Pomeroy Applauds USDA on Next Steps for Sugar Beets Swift action will bring certainty for North Dakota producers 09-01-10 Washington, Sep 1 - Congressman Earl Pomeroy issued the following statement today in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement that they would move forward on an aggressive timeline to resolve the uncertainty for producers after the August Roundup Ready sugar beet court decision. "In a conversation yesterday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, I made it clear that this court ruling could have a major impact on the livelihood of sugar beet producers in the Red River Valley," said Congressman Pomeroy. "The Secretary understands what this means for our producers, and I applaud him for taking action to implement temporary measures to help producers while they continue work on the full Environmental Impact Statement for Roundup Ready Sugar Beets." The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is moving forward on a plan to issue permits to sugar beet seed producers within certain restrictions. These permits may be completed in as little as the next two weeks. APHIS is also evaluating a request for a partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets. "Taking the appropriate steps to consider a partial deregulation is critical to protecting jobs up and down the Red River Valley," Congressman Pomeroy said. "It is important that the department stay focused on completing the required environmental review process that our producers need." Pomeroy is a member of both the Agriculture Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, and served as a lead negotiator in the 2008 Farm Bill. Capital Press APHIS says bio-beet rules will come by end of the year By WES SANDER 09-01-10 Federal regulators said today they will decide by year's end on the conditions by which they will allow production of biotech sugar beets for the next two seasons. Unregulated production of Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beets was banned last month by a federal judge. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said it is considering a partial deregulation of the crop under its regulatory authority, and is conducting an environmental analysis of the proposed conditions "to inform its decision making." The partial deregulation will adhere to interim restrictions that the agency proposed in court earlier this year, APHIS said. Those restrictions included: - Prohibiting use of the seeds in California -- where sugar beets are no longer a significant commodity -- and in 19 counties in Washington west of the Cascades. - Establishing four-mile buffer zones in Oregon's Willamette Valley between fields where the biotech seeds are produced and crops that could be cross-pollinated, including Swiss chard, sugar beets, table beets and fodder beets. - Requiring growers provide GPS coordinates of Roundup Ready beet fields to APHIS. The agency says it would disclose only the fields' distances from potential cross-pollinating crops, and only to growers who request the information. - Detailed restrictions on how seed producers can handle biotech seeds, with a third party certifying compliance. - Requirements that all root-crop growers remove flowering plants before they produce pollen or seed. APHIS also said it is issuing permits to seed producers to continue cultivation. "That's a relief for me as a commercial grower," said Duane Grant, chairman of Snake River Sugar Company in Idaho. "We've got to stay on track with plantings or we'll develop a seed shortage in 2012." Producers would currently be planting to produce seed for the 2012 crop, but planting was put on hold following an Aug. 13 court decision that banned unregulated production of the seed and root crops. Organic growers and environmentalists, who claimed the seeds posed a danger of cross-pollination, filed suit in 2008 to block production of the crop. Judge White revoked the seeds' deregulated status until APHIS completes an environmental-impact statement to satisfy federal rules, a process expected to take two years. His ruling gave APHIS the authority to regulate the crop in the interim. Grant said beet producers need word of what to expect by early December. A decision by then would help growers' decisions on purchasing seeds to be planted next spring, he said. "We really need a decision by about the first of December," Grant said. "But we're cognizant of the fact that APHIS has some extensive work to do." Paul Atchitoff of Earthjustice, lead attorney for plaintiffs in the lawsuit, has said plaintiffs will likely challenge APHIS again if the agency tries to allow the seeds without sufficient environmental documentation. Atchitoff was not immediately available for comment. APHIS deregulated Monsanto's seed genes in 2005. An estimated 95 percent of the domestic industry now uses seeds containing the Roundup Ready traits. Sugar beets account for about half the domestic sugar crop.