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A supplement to U.S. Canola Digest


Capitol Hill

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he does not intend to regulate plants created through new breeding techniques like genome editing. This technology can introduce better traits in plants more quickly and more precisely, which Perdue argues is the backbone of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should be trying to achieve. “Using this science, farmers can continue to meet consumer expectations for healthful, affordable food produced in a manner that consumes fewer natural resources. This new innovation will help farmers do what we aspire to do at USDA: do right and feed everyone,” he said.

Like much of Congress’s actions this year, the path to getting the 2018 Farm Bill passed is anything but certain, reported AgWeek: “ The existing farm bill expires this fall and political bickering is well underway. Republicans would like to expand existing work requirements to people who receive food stamps – known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – but Democrats are opposed.

Agronomy

Winter may finally be over, but that doesn’t mean that canola researchers aren’t thinking about the next batch of winter canola crops. In order to make canola more enticing to farmers in northern Kansas and Nebraska – where winters are more intense – canola breeders have made breakthroughs in developing a hardier canola plant, the High Plains Journal reported. “There are varieties that we can direct [growers] to now,” said Mike Stamm, canola researcher with Kansas State University. “We have not been able to say that in the past.” However, there is still a ways to go before canola becomes mainstream in that neck of the woods. 

The world’s population is estimated to swell to close to 10 billion by 2050, begging for new innovations in agriculture. A study from the University of Sydney used “speed breeding” with canola and a handful of other crops in a temperature-controlled greenhouse to accelerate photosynthesis, which exceeded expectations. Researchers were able to grow four generations of canola in one year. In contrast, conventional greenhouses yield just two to three, while outdoor farming produces just one yield a year.

Nutrition

Kevin Doxzen, science communications specialist at the Innovative Genomics Institute, said in the San Francisco Chronicle that sustainable agriculture in this era of climate change requires us to accept genetically altered crops. “Genetically modified organisms can preserve the environment and build an economy for future generations,” he noted.

The New York Times’s personal health columnist Jane Brody similarly argued this point in a her column entitled “Are GMO Foods Safe?” She noted science proves again and again that GMOs are not only safe, they can help areas of the world where agriculture has been hampered by a changing climate. “The bottom line: Consumers concerned about the growing use of GMOs in the foods they depend on might consider taking a more nuanced approach than blanket opposition,” Brody said. “Rather than wholesale rejection, take some time to learn about how genetic engineering works and the benefits it can offer now and in the future as climate change takes an ever greater toll on food supplies.”

Other Country News

As President Trump continues to threaten a trade war with China, Canadian growers haven’t wasted any time in betting big on their canola crops. David Reimann, a market analyst at Cargill, told Bloomberg that growers are likely to replace lentils, peas and cereal crops with canola in order to maximize the opening in the oilseed market – potentially reaching 24 million acres this year. “If anything, the China thing encourages more canola,” he said.

However, Canadian canola’s deficit grew earlier this year from $2.69 billion to $1.94 billion in January, according to Statistics Canada. It’s a larger deficit than forecasted, but not entirely unexpected: Canada has only had two monthly trade surpluses since October 2014.

Worrisome news out of Australia: Many of the major canola seed distributors have reported a seed shortage because of a harsh winter. “It was a challenging season in hybrid production, with frosts and late storm which has meant a reduction in the volume of canola seed available for 2018,” Andrew Loorham, Nuseed Australia commercial manager, told the North Queensland Register. May will determine just how dire the situation is for canola growers. 

Latest Industry News

Washington state farmers have until May 11 to submit applications to the Oregon Department of Agriculture for the 2019 harvest, according to The Capitol Press. This will be the last time growers have to go through this process as a state law that prohibiting canola to just 500 acres expires this year. It’s unclear where canola farming in the Willamette Valley is expected to go in the years to come.

Minnesota’s canola community may be small, but it’s growing at impressive speed. In the USCA blog this May, read Minnesota Canola Council Chair Tony Brateng’s outline of ways the state is quickly regaining strength in canola production. 

About the USCA

The 5th National Canola Research Conference (NCRC), sponsored by the U.S. Canola Association and industry stakeholders, will be Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 5-6, 2018 in Baltimore, Md. It will be held in conjunction with the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) annual meeting. The NCRC will begin with two symposiums, one focusing on canola oil and nutrition research and the other on canola production around the world. The symposiums will be followed by oral and poster presentations. "Held once every four years, this conference is an opportunity for canola researchers to showcase what they have been working on to the broader research community," said Mike Stamm, NCRC organizer and ASA member.

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