The American Soybean Association (ASA) welcomes the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement to continue the Asian Soybean Rust Pest Information Platform for Education and Extension (PIPE). ASA has been working with USDA and Congress to secure federal funding for PIPE because the system helps protect the U.S. soybean crop valued at more than $30 billion and saves soybean producers millions of dollars annually.

"ASA is pleased that USDA will be providing over $750,000 in funding for the soybean rust sentinel plot and diagnostic network in FY09," said ASA Chairman John Hoffman, a soybean producer from Waterloo, Iowa. "These USDA funds will be leveraged with approximately $500,000 in federal and state checkoff investments and available state funding to maintain a scaled-down soybean rust sentinel plot and diagnostic network."

As a result of ASA’s successful advocacy efforts, PIPE has been funded with more than $2 million of federal money for each of the last four years. PIPE is a coordinated framework that has been highly effective in helping growers make informed decisions about fungicide application. 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. 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.

"While ASA is pleased that USDA will be providing this funding to allow for a continuation of the sentinel plot system and diagnostic network in 2009, ASA believes an increased funding amount should be made part of USDA’s regular budget for FY2010 and subsequent years," Hoffman said. "The threat and reality of soybean rust is not going to go away, so we need a long-term funding pipeline for this important program."

ASA strongly supported the President’s budget request last fall for $2.3 million for soybean rust monitoring and control, and contacted Congressional appropriations leaders for funding support. ASA efforts included organization of a coalition of more than 50 diverse stakeholders that urged Congress to provide funding for PIPE.

"Approval of these 2009 funds follows ASA efforts to secure continued USDA funding for the system after Congress failed to complete and pass an agriculture appropriations bill in the last Congress," Hoffman said. "For 2010 and beyond, ASA is urging USDA to increase and make permanent funding for this program."

Soybean rust was first discovered in the U.S. in 2005, and has spread each year to key soybean producing regions. USDA’s Economic Research Service has found that rust management due to PIPE 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. PIPE is administered by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES).

"ASA’s joint efforts with USDA in preparing for and now monitoring the advancement of soybean rust have been highly effective," Hoffman said. "ASA commends 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."

For more information about PIPE, go to www.sbrusa.net to view the national system of real-time soybean rust monitoring and forecasting that is in place to help growers with prevention management decisions.