As of March 15, no crop insurance claims listing Asian soybean rust as a primary or secondary cause of loss have been submitted, according to Risk Management Agency Administrator Eldon Gould.

As part of his testimony last week before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, Gould reported on his agency's efforts to determine and communicate the "good farming practices" growers need to follow to control soybean rust.

Gould also highlighted his agency's funding of the $2.4 million soybean rust mapping tool on as a key risk-management resource growers can use for information about disease progress as well as documentation of the good farming practices recommended and followed.

Gould's testimony on soybean rust:

"Asian soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) is a fungal disease that can quickly defoliate plants and reduce pod set, pod fill, seed quality and yield. To ensure that producers know their rights and responsibilities under the soybean policy, RMA has augmented the information that insurance providers are required to provide to farmers through their agents.

"RMA's communications encourage insured producers concerned about the impact of Asian soybean rust to use good farming practices by seeking and following recommendations of agricultural experts to control soybean rust. RMA recommends that insured producers document the advice received and actions taken to combat this disease, and contact their agents on matters related to their insurance policies. Insurance providers have been asked to distribute this information to all soybean policyholders.

"Further, RMA met often with commodity groups, crop insurance providers and their associations and agent organizations to discuss several issues, including RMA's Manager's Bulletin MGR-05-012 that clarified good farming practices.

[Editor's note: The bulletin, subject: "Good Farming Practice Decisions, Determinations and Reconsiderations Regarding Emerging Crop Diseases -- Asian Soybean Rust," was issued Sept. 1, 2005, and is still in effect until rescinded.]

"RMA is continually gathering up-to-date information and data regarding the spread and appropriate management of soybean rust. RMA participates in the National Soybean Rust Working Group and the USDA Soybean Rust Working Group. In addition, RMA monitors and participates as necessary in discussions among State and Federal agriculture agencies regarding preventative and control measures.

"RMA also worked with other USDA agencies in creating the Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education to provide producers with information about additional legume pests and diseases. The nationally coordinated network assists producers in making crop management decisions that reduce pesticide input costs, reduce environmental exposure to pesticides and increase the efficiency and efficacy of pesticide applications.

"The risk management tool component of the network is an online, real-time data system that allows producers and their advisors to access the latest information, to the county level, of where there are confirmed disease and/or pest outbreaks.

"RMA funded the $2.4 million mapping tool, which includes frequently updated commentaries from state extension specialists and national specialists discussing immediate and projected risks and control options. Section 131 of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 provides authority for this Risk Management Development partnership.

"The risk management mapping tool is helping to improve crop protection by educating farmers about risk-management strategies and providing timely information about good farming practices specific to current crop pest and disease risk status. Producers have the information needed so they spray only when the risk is imminent, and reduce the overall number of sprays or other pest-control interventions.

"This tool increases producers' awareness of more precise management practices and provides documentation for potential crop insurance claims. Information is also provided to assist certified organic farmers in making decisions about planting schedules and geographic risk for disease and pest outbreak.

"The soybean rust risk management tool is available online at USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service; RMA; and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service are working together to implement the system.

"So far, no claims listing Soybean Rust as a primary or secondary cause of loss have been submitted."

Related links:
The full RMA Administrator's March 15 (2006) Testimony.