‘This is the kind of stuff we’re all supposed to be eating’: Farmers, foodies react to USDA decision to label soybeans
By Katie DeMeo, The Washington PostThe Environmental Protection Agency is poised to announce its decision to classify soybeans as a greenhouse gas, the first such designation in nearly two decades.
The decision could have significant implications for the way farmers and food producers use soybeans and other crops, as well as the industry’s response to climate change.
The EPA’s decision is expected this week, and is expected to help the U.S. beef industry transition from a high-sugar, high-fructose corn syrup-based farming model to one that relies on a more sustainable approach.
The agency also could provide the green light for soybeans to be labeled as a potential carbon source.
The move comes amid mounting pressure from farmers and the American Soybean Association, a trade group.
They say the designation would make it easier for them to avoid the price spikes that have plagued some farmers and hurt their bottom lines.
Soybeans were once the most profitable crop in the United States, and now are the most controversial crop on the market.
A 2012 study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that the average farmer spent about $1,500 a year on soybeans, up from $1 an acre in 2001.
The study also found that soybean farmers have experienced more crop failures than any other crop.
A 2013 study by researchers at the University at Buffalo found that more than half of soybean-related crop failures were caused by insect damage, a problem that has led to widespread crop damage and crop losses.
The USDA’s decision comes as President Donald Trump is weighing whether to lift the Obama administration’s ban on soybean imports.
Trump has also indicated that he may reconsider the ban after the EPA’s final ruling.
On Monday, the president sent letters to both the Agriculture Department and the Agriculture Information Administration, the agency that manages the U and S crops, asking them to consider the potential impact of the EPA designation on their operations.
On Friday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue sent a letter to USDA Director Tom Vilsack and USDA Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, saying the agency was reviewing the agency’s decision and would consider a range of options.
“I look forward to working with the Administration to address this important issue, and the concerns of farmers and their families,” Perdue wrote in the letter, which was released to The Washington Examiner.
“The Department is confident that it is the right and appropriate action to take.”
On Thursday, USDA Secretary Mike Pompeo told The Associated Press that the agency will make a decision in “a few weeks.”
In a statement, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Industries Association said the USDA decision will “put a major dent in the growing crisis of farm debt, which will hurt our farmers and ranchers in the years ahead.”
But the association said the agency should have made the decision sooner.
“Farmers and rancher households have lost thousands of dollars in sales in the past year,” the statement said.
“Farmers have lost the confidence of consumers in their ability to buy good-quality, nutritious food.”
Read more about soybeans:Farmers said they were thrilled by the news.
Tom Smith, who owns a small farm in the central Ohio town of Cleveland, said the new label would be good news.
“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing, and I think it’s the right thing,” Smith said.
For farmers and producers, the move is good news for the industry.
The move will likely help the soybean industry transition to a more organic and sustainable approach, according to Tom Pecoraro, president of the American Seed Council.
“This is what we have been asking for for decades, and it’s been ignored by the Obama Administration,” Pecoriaro said.
Seed production in the U, along with soybean production in Mexico, have been at historic lows, according the American Association of State and Territorial Extension Agronomists.
Soybean prices are up a whopping 90 percent since 2013, according a USDA report.
Pecoriaros concerns are echoed by the USDA’s Office of Agricultural Research, which said the transition to organic farming will cost farmers, and that consumers should be prepared to be exposed to higher prices if the transition is slow.
“As the transition toward organic agriculture continues, consumers should expect increased costs and uncertainty as a result of the transition,” said Julie Schlossberg, an agency spokeswoman.
Pepoto said the decision to designate soybeans a greenhouse-gas will help farmers adapt to climate changes and “reduce the impact on agriculture and food supply.”
But some critics of the agency say it’s an overreach.
They point out that a number of other food groups and companies have also designated their products as a carbon source, including corn, wheat, soybeans — and dairy, apples and milk.
The agency has previously classified the following crops as a source of greenhouse gases: beef, dairy, sugar be