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USDA approves flu vaccine for swine

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a conditional license to Pfizer Animal Health, of Lincoln, Neb., for a pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine to vaccinate pigs against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. This is the first pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine license issued by USDA.

The vaccine should not only help producers protect their swine herds, but also protect themselves from economic losses in the event their herds contract the virus.

Conditional licenses are generally issued with restrictions for a limited period of time. In this case, the product has been issued a conditional license for one year.

At the end of the conditional license period, data obtained in support of the product's performance will be evaluated to determine if the conditional license should be renewed or if a regular product license may be issued.

The product is restricted to use by a veterinarian in those states where use of the product has been approved by the appropriate state regulatory authorities.

USDA releases statement on alfalfa

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 of deregulating alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, known commercially as Roundup. The genetically engineered alfalfa is commonly referred to as "Roundup-ready" alfalfa.

In 2005, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service originally deregulated two lines of Roundup-ready alfalfa. However, a lawsuit was subsequently filed and in February 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the agency had not adequately documented the potential, or lack of potential, impacts on the environment. But the court did not overturn the agency's 2005 conclusions regarding the safety of a Roundup-ready alfalfa for food and feed purposes.

To comply with the court order, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued the newly released draft environmental impact statement, which considers two alternatives.

The two alternatives are to either grant non-regulated status to the two lines of Roundup-ready alfalfa, or maintain the lines' status as regulated articles. The agency analyzed the two alternatives with regard to their potential environmental impact, socioeconomic impacts, as well as human health and safety impacts.

Preliminarily, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service concluded that there is no significant impact on the human environment due to the granting of non-regulated status for Roundup-ready alfalfa.

The agency is now seeking public comments on the draft environmental impact statement and will consider all comments received before making any final decision regarding the regulatory status of Roundup-ready alfalfa.

As a result of the original lawsuit, several actions have been taken by the court that impacted alfalfa producers.

The U.S. District Court's ruling to stop the deregulation of Roundup-ready alfalfa brought the alfalfa back under USDA authority as a regulated article. Therefore, any Roundup-ready alfalfa that was already planted before the court ruling does not have to be removed. However, the judge also provided specific instructions on how growers and distributors are to store the alfalfa, how to label the containers used for storage, and how to properly clean alfalfa harvesting and processing equipment.

Additionally, the judge prohibited any future planting or sale of Roundup-ready alfalfa seed.

The comment period will be open for 60 days from the date of publication in the Dec. 18 Federal Register. For information on how to submit a comment, visit the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Web site at:

FSA committee election results

Local Farm Service Agency offices recently tabulated the ballots that were returned for the 2009 county committee election. All election winners will begin serving three-year terms that officially began Friday.

In Chippewa County, Harvey Williamson of Montevideo was elected to his first term.

In Kandiyohi County, Stanely Wubben of Raymond was re-elected for a second term.

In Meeker County, Frank Marshall of Grove City was re-elected for a second term.

In Pope County, Rick Davidson of Glenwood was re-elected for a second term.

In Renville County, Barb Melberg of Buffalo Lake was elected to her first term.

In Swift County, Jan Saunders of Benson was elected to her first term.

In Yellow Medicine County, Kent Goplen of Canby was re-elected for a third term.

There are nearly 7,750 county committee members serving the 2,248 Farm Service Agency offices located nationwide.

Committee members make many important decisions regarding the local administration of the various commodity, price support, conservation and disaster assistance programs administered by USDA.

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