The May 3 permanent injunction that outlaws the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa until USDA completes an environmental impact statement is causing big headaches for hay growers. Growers harvesting existing Roundup Ready alfalfa fields must follow required procedures aimed at preventing the spread of the Roundup Ready gene. On July 12, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued an administrative order that includes a guide for cleaning equipment used to harvest the transgenic crop, and requirements for labeling Roundup Ready alfalfa that leaves the farm where it was grown. One of those requirements is that all Roundup Ready alfalfa bales be labeled.
"We have 780 acres of Roundup Ready alfalfa and we are going to keep it because our highest tonnage and quality have been with Roundup Ready alfalfa," says Mike Phillips, Lovelock, NV. "The cleaning of equipment and the requirement that each bale has to be tagged are very labor-intensive, though." Phillips has contacted USDA and tried to point out the impracticality of tagging every bale, but says it doesn't seem that growers are being heard. "We ship upwards of 1,000 truckloads of hay per year," he explains. "I think it is important to think of the economic hardships that this injunction causes people."
Phillips says Roundup Ready alfalfa helps address the weed pressure he faces. "Without Roundup Ready alfalfa, our chemical costs increased $25-30/acre," he says. Before the injunction, Phillips was geared up to plant an additional 900 acres of it, but had to switch to conventional seed. "We saw this coming, so we started looking for conventional seed early, which was lucky," he says. "Conventional seed is getting hard to find in our area."
The majority of his hay is sold to California dairies.