When it comes to crop and seed selection, the savviest farmers not
only consider locale, soil conditions, costs and long-range
schedule, but also factor against what happened the year before and
current market forecasts.
According to 2013 figures, the U.S. was the leading exporter of
corn, representing 33.8 percent, with 1,457 million bushels,
followed by Brazil at 19.2 percent, Ukraine at 16.5 percent and
Argentina at 12.8 percent, for a total of 82.3 percent of the global
Markets the U.S. exported corn to in order of most to least:
Japan, 270 million bushels; Mexico, 180 million bushels; and China,
95 million bushels. Other markets taking U.S. corn: Venezuela,
Taiwan, Canada, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Jamaica and other
Of the 95,365,000 acres of corn planted in the U.S. in 2013, 90
percent were in biotech seed. Of this figure, 67,709,000 acres, or
71 percent, were planted in stacked traits, 14 percent in
herbicide-tolerant and 5 percent in insect-resistant traits.
The same as corn, more than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans are
raised with seeds enhanced through biotechnology.
Only 10 percent of corn and soybeans brought to market today are
not genetically modified. Farmers opting to enter the non-GM niche
market may be paid a premium to offset the extra handling costs.
The expanded export markets, which have increased U.S.
agricultural product movement, have been a mutual benefit to other
countries and to the global economy. However, what could hurt
everyone would be if U.S. biotech products would continue to show up
in foreign markets where they have not yet been approved.
Several months ago China began regularly testing its imports and
has been finding an unapproved corn trait (MIR162) that came out in
the U.S. last year. As of February, China had rejected more than
661,000 tons of Viptera-tainted corn. Viptera is engineered to fight
corn rootworm and has been awaiting Beijing approval for two years.
Now, in 2014, its sister product, Duracade, also not approved by
China, is entering the U.S. commercial market.
The National Grain and Feed Association, North American Export
Grain Association, and other trade and export industry leaders have
expressed strong concerns about the unapproved products that have
been found in U.S. exports.
The NAEGA and NGFA are calling on all levels of the ag industry
to respond to its stewardship responsibilities: "Within the U.S.
grain and oilseed handling and marketing system, each purchaser or
handler makes its own determination as to whether to accept various
commodity crops — including those produced from
The International Soy Growers Alliance will meet with Chinese
government officials March 26-28 "to discuss food security and
mutually beneficial trading agreements and work to prevent potential
trade disruptions." Five countries that make up the ISGA —
Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and the United States —
represent more than 90 percent of global soybean, soybean meal and
soy oil exports. The American Soybean Association and the United
Soybean Board represent the U.S. in the ISGA.
Like corn, some GM soybeans are not yet approved for trade in
some countries. Biotech soybeans have had limited introduction in
the last 15 years. However, industry experts now say that the
pipeline is moving quickly. Numerous biotech soybeans are moving
According to the United Soybean Board: "Significant delays in
regulatory approval may impact local markets that depend on U.S.
soybeans. For example, U.S. soy meal, as a feed ingredient, plays a
key role in the European livestock market. If U.S. soybeans were not
available for import, the result may cause significant economic
impact to key local markets."
On Feb. 21, Archer Daniels Midland Co. said that it would not be
accepting Duracade crops. In further communications on March 5, ADM
representative Jackie Anderson said: "Because of the importance of
exports to American agriculture, ADM will not accept, against any
export or domestic processing contract, any commodity that contains
the Duracade trait, unless it is approved in all of our major export
markets. For now, we reserve the right to test deliveries and
decline those that contain Duracade.
"As for Viptera, if producers or suppliers intend to deliver to
our interior elevators any product containing that trait, we ask
that they notify us ahead of time.
"Wide-scale planting of traits that aren't approved by key
importing countries would diminish the competitiveness of American
grain and feed exports. To help ensure the continued strength of
U.S. agriculture, we're all — farmers, elevators, processors and
exporters — well served by making certain that the crops and
products we deliver are acceptable in key export markets."
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ADM is recommending that farmers confirm that the seed they
intend to plant this spring is approved for all major export
markets, including China.
"If it's not, we'd encourage them to check with their seed sales
representative to see if their order can be exchanged for seeds that
are approved for global use," Anderson says. "We recognize it's an
extra step, but we're confident it's in the best interests of
everyone involved in U.S. agriculture."
What should a Logan County farmer do if considering entering a
crop in global export market?
Today, the decision of whether the crop is being grown for the
domestic market or as an export is another factor in the farmer's
choice of seed. The National Corn Growers Association's "Know Before
You Grow" program has made it quick and easy to cross-check if a
biotech corn hybrid is accepted in various export markets.
When handling traits not accepted for all markets, follow seed
agreements and practice good stewardship: Keep good records, clean
equipment, and use open and clear communications when going to
At Elkhart Grain Elevator, general manager Don Ludwig said: "We
don't like to tell our growers they can't grow something. We like to
tell them, if they want to grow something, we'll do what we can to
work with them. We just need to know what they are bringing in."
In further support of the decisions afforded the farmer, Ludwig
added: "Today, it is more the way we farm: what kind of tillage
practice, insecticide and weed control in conjunction with GMO
traits. We like to leave it up to the farmer what they plant."
According to a report released by the USDA in February 2014:
The price of genetically engineered soybean and corn
seeds grew by about 50 percent in real terms (adjusted for
inflation) between 2001 and 2010.
The yield advantage of Bt corn over conventional seed has
become larger in recent years as new Bt traits have been
incorporated and stacked traits have become available.
Planting Bt corn continues to be more profitable, as
measured by net returns, than planting conventional seeds.
As for soybeans, according to an Iowa State University study:
"Without biotechnology, global food prices would be nearly 10
percent higher for soybeans."
[By JAN YOUNGQUIST]