Seventy-five members of Congress have sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, asking USDA to partially deregulate Roundup Ready alfalfa so farmers can plant it this fall.
The legislators want farmers to be able to plant “their inventoried” Roundup Ready alfalfa seed pending the completion of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the transgenic crop, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) reports. That document is expected from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service by the end of the year.
According to BIO, last Friday’s request was organized by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Wally Berger (R-CA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT). The letter signers included House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and 25 other members of that committee.
The letter says farmers have lost an estimated $250 million in revenue from not being able to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa during the EIS process, and will face significant additional losses if not allowed to plant the crop this fall.
“RRA (Roundup Ready alfalfa) dramatically reduces the need for chemical application and other high-cost methods of weed control, thus increasing efficiency and significantly lowering operating costs,” the letter reads. “The efficiencies of RRA led to higher yields and higher field quality that resulted in an annual revenue increase of approximately $100 per acre.”
Given the fact USDA’s draft EIS concluded that the biotech crop is environmentally safe, “we request that you issue a partial deregulation to allow farmers to plant their inventoried RRA seed this fall while your agency finalizes the EIS,” it says.
The letter was sent nearly a month after another letter, signed by 56 U.S. senators and representatives, asked Vilsack to retain the regulated status of Roundup Ready alfalfa. Read more.
On June 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a 2007 injunction prohibiting the sale and planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed was improper, a ruling that returned jurisdiction over the crop to USDA. The agency could permit limited fall planting, but has given no indication that it will.