The Senate passed a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill by a vote of 69-30. The U.S. Canola Association (USCA) joined 37 other agricultural groups in a letter to Congressional leadership in support of the bill, which would invest $110 billion in U.S. roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband, and $17.3 billion for ports and inland waterways. In addition, this bill includes a number of provisions designed to boost the resiliency of the agricultural supply chain, including investments in cybersecurity and programs to address truck driver shortages. The Senate also passed a budget resolution that is needed to trigger the reconciliation process. Its Agriculture Committee is directed to focus on climate change, including conservation, forestry and research; clean energy; child nutrition; rural development; and debt relief for small farmers. Read more in the USCA Blog.
On Aug. 4, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee approved a $25.85 billion fiscal year 2022 bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and related agencies. The measure has several positives for canola, including a $1 million increase for the Supplemental and Alternative Crops Program, which funds the National Canola Research Program. The Senate bill would fund renovations and upgrades at Agricultural Research Service facilities in Fargo, N.D., and continue the National Sclerotinia Initiative. The measure also includes $7 billion in disaster aid, $6.28 billion of which is for producers who suffered losses due to droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other qualifying disasters in 2020 and 2021.
In public statements earlier this month, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the Biden Administration continues to pressure Mexico to resume approvals of genetically modified crops. Mexico has not approved a new biotech trait since May 2018, creating a bottleneck that is now blocking canola and other crop traits. Tai said she discussed the issue directly with Mexican Agriculture Secretary Victor Villalobos and Mexican Economy Secretary Tatiana Clouthier during her trip to Mexico City.
The European Commission authorized seven new genetically modified crops, including one oilseed rape (canola) variety. It also renewed authorization for this variety, which can be used for food and animal feed. “All of these GMOs have gone through a comprehensive and stringent authorization procedure, including a favorable scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority,” the Commission said. These authorizations, which are valid for 10 years, do not cover cultivation.
On Aug. 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) on all food crops to “better protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers.” In a final rule, the EPA said it is revoking all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, referring to an allowable amount of residue on food. In addition, the agency will issue a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act regarding registered food uses of chlorpyrifos. A number of other countries, including the European Union and Canada, and some states (California, Hawaii, New York, Maryland and Oregon) have taken similar action to restrict the use of chlorpyrifos. Four class-action lawsuits against Dow Chemical and Corteva Agriscience, which manufactures the pesticide, were filed in California in July. Corteva announced in 2020 that it would stop selling the chemical, citing declining sales.
The USCA joined 13 agricultural biotechnology stakeholder groups in comments on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed rule “Exemption: Movement of Organisms Modified or Produced through Genetic Engineering.” In July, APHIS proposed exempting from USDA regulation three types of modifications that are similar and functionally equivalent to those that could otherwise be achieved through conventional breeding.
APHIS is also proposing draft guidance for a new regulatory review process aimed at determining when genetically engineered plants need its approval for commercialization. Under the revised rule, developers have the option of requesting a permit or regulatory status review (RSR) of a plant developed by genetic engineering that has not been previously reviewed or regulated. There is a public comment period until Oct. 25 and APHIS will host a webinar on Sept. 21 to provide an overview of its draft RSR guide.