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USDA releases draft environmental impact statement for Roundup Ready sugar beets

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has released a draft environmental impact statement that evaluates the potential environmental effects if the agency grants non-regulated status of sugar beets genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, known commercially as Roundup. The genetically engineered sugar beets are commonly referred to as Roundup Ready sugar beets.

In the draft statement, three alternatives were considered by USDA: deny the petition for non-regulated status; approve the non-regulated status petition; or extend the current partial deregulation with mandatory conditions and restrictions.

The impact statement also identifies full non-regulated status as the preferred alternative, since USDA determined that the genetically engineered sugar beet is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk.

The draft statement was prepared to comply with a September 2009 judgment and order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which stated that USDA should have prepared an impact statement before it originally decided in 2005 to grant non-regulated status for the genetically engineered sugar beets.

On July 29, 2010, Monsanto submitted a supplement request for partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets. The request was to authorize continued cultivation, subject to carefully tailored interim measures and conditions.

The request was ultimately granted, with USDA also allowing the planting of genetically engineered sugar beet seed crops under its permitting procedures.

Before making any final decision regarding the regulatory status of Roundup Ready sugar beets, USDA is requesting public comments regarding the three alternatives outlined in the draft environmental impact statement. Comments will be accepted through Dec. 13.

In addition, three public meetings will be held by USDA to obtain feedback from the general public. One of the meetings will be on Nov. 15 in Fargo, N.D.

It is anticipated that USDA will make a final decision before June 15. However, unforeseen conditions may cause a delay in the decision making timeline.

To view the entire environmental impact statement, or to submit a comment, visit www.aphis.usda.gov.

Minnesota spring wheat,

oat production down dramatically in 2011

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spring wheat production in Minnesota totaled 69 million bushels this year, down 19 percent from 2010. Spring wheat yields in Minnesota averaged 46 bushels per acre, down 9 bushels from last year.

Spring wheat acres harvested for grain totaled 1.5 million acres, down 3 percent from 2010.

Oat production in Minnesota was estimated at 5.94 million bushels, down 48 percent from last year, and is the lowest production total since 1866. Oat yields in Minnesota averaged 54 bushels per acre, down 15 bushels from 2010.

Oat acres harvested for grain totaled 110,000 acres, down 33 percent from 2010, and the smallest harvested acreage in Minnesota's history.

Minnesota hog inventory up

4 percent from one year ago

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, Minnesota hog producers had an inventory of 7.8 million hogs and pigs on Sept. 1, up 1 percent from June 1, and up 4 percent from one year ago.

Minnesota's breeding hog inventory totaled 560,000 head, up 2 percent from a year earlier. Market hogs and pigs totaled 7.24 million head, up 4 percent from a year ago.

Minnesota's June-August pig crop totaled 2.97 million head, up 4 percent from a year ago, but down 1 percent from the March-May period. The 290,000 sows that farrowed had an average litter of 10.25 pigs, up from 10.20 a year ago.

The U.S. inventory of hogs and pigs totaled 66.6 million head on Sept. 1, up 1 percent from a year ago.

Turkey production

down 2 percent

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of turkeys raised in the United States in 2011 will total 248 million, up 2 percent from the 244 million raised in 2010.

Minnesota continues to be the nation's top turkey producing state, raising 46.5 million turkeys in 2011, down slightly from the 47 million raised in 2010. The next closest states are North Carolina and Arkansas, both with 30 million turkeys.

Other major turkey producing states include: Missouri - 18 million; Virginia - 17.5 million; and Indiana - 16 million.

Together, these six states are expected to account for nearly 64 percent of the turkeys produced in the United States in 2011.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.

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