In November 2004, Asian Soybean Rust (ASR) was discovered in the United States in Louisiana. In the following weeks, it was found in eight additional southern states. ASR is a harmful fungal disease that has spread throughout many other parts of the world, including Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America. ASR can infect over 90 host plant species, including legumes, such as dry beans, peas, and kudzu, a plant that grows wild primarily in the southern United States. Although the disease has caused significant soybean crop loss and increased production costs in many other countries, ASR arrived in the United States too late in the crop year to have any effect on soybean production in 2004, and scientists were uncertain about how it would survive the winter climates in the United States. However, in February 2005, researchers found that ASR had successfully over-wintered on kudzu in Florida, and it was subsequently detected in Georgia on soybean plants in April 2005. Since environmental factors, such as rainfall, humidity, and temperature, affect both the severity and incidence of ASR, scientists do not know how widespread or damaging the disease will be in the United States during the 2005 crop year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for monitoring and addressing the problems posed by ASR. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for licensing fungicides to treat the disease. Congress asked us to determine (1) USDA's efforts to develop and implement an ASR surveillance strategy to identify and protect against ASR's entry into the United States and to test and verify suspect cases; (2) USDA's strategy for minimizing the effects of ASR now that the fungus has arrived in the United States; and (3) the progress that USDA, EPA, and others have made in developing, testing, and licensing fungicides to treat ASR and in identifying and breeding ASR-resistant or -tolerant soybeans.
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