In 2005, U.S. agriculture faced potentially devastating losses from Asian Soybean Rust (ASR), a fungal disease that spreads airborne spores. Fungicides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can protect against ASR. In 2005, growers in 31 states planted about 72.2 million soybean acres worth about $17 billion. While favorable weather conditions limited losses due to ASR, it still threatens the soybean industry. In May 2005, GAO described the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) efforts to prepare for ASR's entry, (Agriculture Production: USDA's Preparation for Asian Soybean Rust, GAO-05-668R). This report examines (1) USDA's strategy to minimize ASR's effects in 2005 and the lessons learned to improve future efforts and (2) USDA, EPA, and others' efforts to develop, test, and license fungicides for ASR and to identify and breed soybeans that tolerate it.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Agriculture||To ensure reliable, quality reporting on the spread of the disease, USDA should provide additional guidance to state ASR program managers and monitors on the timing and frequency of reporting on the incidence of ASR, the designation of sentinel plots, and when to use advanced diagnostic testing.|
|Department of Agriculture||To ensure that ASR continues to receive national priority and the same level of effective coordination and cooperation evidenced in 2005, USDA should develop a detailed action plan, prior to the beginning of the growing season, describing how it will manage ASR in 2006.|