Colorado is one of 10 new states that can now ship seed potatoes to Thailand, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday.
The newly eligible states are Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. In 2009, Thailand announced it would accept seed potatoes from California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
“This is a promising development for U.S. seed potato producers who will now be able to compete in Thailand, the largest potato growing country in Southeast Asia,” Vilsack said. “Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. agricultural products, and exports there are expected to grow by more than 25 percent this year. This action by the government of Thailand will provide buyers with additional supplies of high-quality seed potatoes.”
The number of honey-producing bee colonies in the U.S. rose 7.4 percent last year and honey production was up 20 percent, according to a report released Friday by the Agriculture Department.
About 2.684 million colonies were reported by beekeepers with five or more hives in 2010, USDA reports. Honey production rose to 65.5 pounds per colony, up 12 percent from 2009, with overall output at 176 million pounds.
In response to Colony Collapse Disorder, beekeepers are keeping more bees on hand during the year to withstand higher losses in the winter dormancy season, which is helping the honeybee population recover.
Environmental groups failed to show that seed plants for Roundup Ready Sugar Beets would cause irreparable harm, a federal appeals court said Friday. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a previous injunction that called for the destruction of the plants.
“We conclude the district court abused its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction requiring destruction of the steckling plants,” the court wrote. “Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the … plants present a possibility, much less a likelihood, of genetic contamination or other irreparable harm. The undisputed evidence indicates that the stecklings pose a negligible risk of genetic contamination, as the juvenile plants are biologically incapable of flowering or cross-pollinating before February 28, 2011, when the permits expire.”
“After conducting an environmental assessment, accepting and reviewing public comments and conducting a plant pest risk assessment, APHIS has determined that the Roundup Ready sugar beet root crop, when grown under APHIS-imposed conditions, can be partially deregulated without posing a plant pest risk or having a significant effect on the environment,” said Michael Gregoire, deputy administrator for APHIS’ biotechnology regulatory services.
More than half of the nation’s granulated sugar has in recent years come from Roundup Ready beets. The other half comes from sugar cane.
Sugar beet growers welcomed the decision.
“The decision is a win for consumers,” said Duane Grant, a beet farmer in Rupert, Idaho, and chairman of the farmer-owned Snake River Sugar Company. “It assures a full beet crop will be planted in 2011.”
On Sunday, the Senate passed the food safety bill by unanimous consent. The bill now goes to the House where passage is expected this week. President Obama has pledged to sign the bill. The bill will overhaul the nation’s food safety laws for the first time since the Great Depression.
The Senate originally approved food safety legislation last month, but it became a victim of congressional pingpong because of congressional rules that all funding measures must begin in the Senate. The technicality was corrected, and the bill will likely be signed into law this year.
The measure would require manufacturers and some farmers to take steps to prevent food contamination and to continually test to make sure it is working. It also would give the Food and Drug Administration new authority to recall food. The measure is expected to cost $1.4 billion over the next four years; this includes the expense of hiring 2,000 new FDA inspectors.
Kelli Ludlum, AFBF food safety specialist, said the legislation won’t impact most farmers and ranchers.
The USDA has unveiled a plan that would allow the planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2011 under strict regulations.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the USDA’s proposal represents the preliminary stage of the process and will be followed by a 30-day comment period before the department makes a final decision. The USDA remains in a legal battle with groups seeking to halt all production and planting of the genetically engineered sugar beets because of concerns that the plants contaminate nearby non-biotech crops.
Potato growers are fighting efforts to ban or limit potatoes in federal child nutrition programs.
The USDA, which administers the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program—one of the largest federal food assistance programs—is now finalizing an interim rule that bars participants from buying potatoes with their federal dollars. The agency is also taking steps to limit potatoes in the federal School Lunch Program.
The exclusion of potatoes apparently stems from a recommendation in a report from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. A spokesperson for that organization says the recommendation was made “to encourage the consumption of other fruits and vegetables.” She says Americans aren’t consuming enough of what she calls “dark green leafy vegetables—orange, yellow, red ones, et cetera.”
The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has awarded 12 $500 mini-grants to communities across the nation. The grants are awarded through the Foundation’s White-Reinhardt Fund for Education program.