Growers urged to comment on new cotton weed control technology

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USDA is expected to open a public comment period for Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Xtend Flex cotton technology beginning in February. Growers will have an opportunity to tell USDA what they think about the need for the dicamba-tolerant cotton trait which could be in Deltapine varieties as early as 2015.

Monsanto had planned to market Roundup Ready 2Xtend soybeans in 2014 and XtendFlex cotton in 2015. But USDA delayed the launch of Roundup Ready 2Xtend soybeans and Dow Phytogen’s Enlist technology, requiring the companies to complete an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS for the two new platforms.

“Our request to the cotton producer is to engage with USDA during the public comment period in February and write a letter saying why they need the they need the technology, why it’s important for their farming operations,” said Doug Rushing, director, global industry affairs for Monsanto.

“USDA really takes their comments seriously, and support from the U.S. cotton producer is extremely valuable in getting these technologies approved by them and by EPA.”

In his comments at the Monsanto NPE (New Product Evaluator) Summit in Charleston, S.C., Rushing said it’s taking longer and longer to get a new product through USDA and EPA than it has in the past.

When Monsanto submitted the BollGard cotton trait and the Roundup Ready soybean technology for approval for launch in 1996, it took 125 to 130 days for regulators to OK them. Roundup Ready Xtend soybeans have been waiting for USDA approval for about 1,300 days, says Rushing.

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“The public comment period is very important because the USDA gauges all the pros and cons, and they evaluate those,” he noted. “So when farmers weigh in and say there’s a real value in the technology, they listen to them and they look to them for their support of the technology.”

In the last election, 35 new members were elected to Congress from cotton-producing areas. “That’s 35 people who probably don’t know a whole lot about agriculture and a whole lot about what you do,” said Rushing.

“So I’m going to ask everybody in here if you know someone who’s in Congress or is a staff member for a member of Congress or even a state legislator, it’s in your best interest and in our best interest to get to know them and educate them.”

Congress is getting farther and farther away from where our food comes from and understanding rural issues and understanding a farmer’s business. “So it’s very important that we all communicate with those folks.”

The urban population continues to increase in the U.S. with voters in urban areas accounting for a larger percentage in each of the last three presidential elections. “Mitt Romney clearly won 78 percent of the counties in the U.S., but only 47 percent of the vote in 2012,” said Rushing. “What does this mean for farm and ag policy and other rural issues for the next four years. So it’s important we all speak out about what we’re doing”

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