The American Soybean Association (ASA) is urgently requesting help from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ed Schafer in funding for the 2009 soybean rust early warning and management system that has helped soybean farmers manage and protect their crops.

The system, known formally as the Integrated Pest Management Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (ipmPIPE), was developed in 2004 between agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the soybean industry.

"After four years as the critical early warning and management system for soybean farmers to minimize the impact of Asian soybean rust, the program has no funding secured for the 2009 crop year," said ASA President John Hoffman, a soybean producer from Waterloo, Iowa. "Without funding for the ipmPIPE system, the U.S. soybean crop, with an estimated farm-gate value of $37 billion, will be put at risk."

The ipmPIPE has been highly effective in helping growers make informed decisions about fungicide applications. The system includes a surveillance and monitoring network, a Web-based information management system, criteria for deciding when to apply fungicides, predictive modeling, and outreach. USDA’s Risk Management Agency has provided more than $2 million in funding for this program in each of the last three years.

"We regret the broken Congressional appropriations process leaves us with no option but to seek USDA funding for this critical program," Hoffman said. "Soybean farmers have been and remain willing to work with USDA. In each year since 2005, more than $500,000 of state and national checkoff funding has been contributed toward this effort. But soybean farmers cannot assume the entire responsibility and cost of this program by themselves."

The development of the Web-based tracking and early-warning system has greatly enhanced the ability of farmers to manage risk and avoid unnecessary fungicide applications. USDA’s Economic Research Service has found that rust management due to ipmPIPE saved farmers an estimated $299 million in 2005. Surveys conducted by land grant universities estimate a $299 million savings in 2006 and another $209 million in 2007.

"While losses due to rust have not been severe, growing conditions in the last several years have been atypical, mainly due to drought in Southern and Southeastern states, which inhibits the spread of rust," Hoffman said. "We will not be protected from soybean rust without the tools that ipmPIPE provides."

The American Soybean Association strongly supports the continuation of ipmPIPE. The risks are simply too great, and the costs too small, to abandon it now. ASA is asking Secretary Schafer for his commitment to continue this highly effective and critically important program.

"Our partnership with USDA in preparing for and now monitoring the advancement of soybean rust has been remarkable," Hoffman said. "We commend the Department for its early recognition of the dangers posed by soybean rust and for the many agencies that have reached out to growers to work together in fighting it."