To crudely reshape the old quote from Rudyard Kipling about the east and west, produce is produce and grain is grain and never the twain shall meet.
At least, that’s generally been my experience in nearly three decades at The Packer. Except for certain dusty corners of farm bill policy - planting fruits and vegetables on “program crop” acres - the worlds never seem to bump up against each other.
But there are more points of intersection now. Labor is one issue that is increasingly cited as a reason that some growers of high value specialty crops are switching to traditional grain crops.
Another point of connection I stumbled upon this morning as I was reviewing www.regulations.gov for fruit and vegetable related rulemaking. As it turns out, there were many public comments about the USDA APHIS’ Environmental Impact Statement reviewing Dow’s stacked trait herbicide deregulation request.
Many of the comments referenced the potential impact of the USDA approval of the USDA’s Dow’s stacked herbicide resistant corn and soybean
Here are selected comments:
David Mortensen, Professor, Weed and Applied Plant Ecologist, Department of Plant Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University: “In addition to concerns about compromised environmental quality, herbicide spillover of the kind that would occur with the approval of this application will make it more difficult for fruit and vegetable farmers to coexist with grain crop farmers.”
Christopher Lish, Olema, Calif.: “Specialty crop and organic farmers, including grape growers and tomato producers, are deeply concerned that Dow’s Enlist corn system will threaten their crops. 2,4-D is known to drift—directly and through volatilization—which poses a very real threat to rural economies, endangered species, and farmers growing crops not engineered to withstand application of these potent chemicals. Conventional farmers could lose crops, while organic farmers could lose both crops and certification, resulting in an economic unraveling of already-stressed rural communities. 2,4-D drift is already responsible for more episodes of crop injury than any other herbicide, and its vastly increased use promises still more damage to crops like soybeans, cotton, vegetables, and fruit. Also concerning is the indiscriminate nature of GE gene contamination among crops, especially organic crops.”
Rebecca Brown writes:
"2,4-D is devastating to many fruit and vegetable crops and it remains for much longer than the companies say that it does. As a small-scale farmer, I personally have experienced loss due to unwanted contamination of 2,4-D. I applied manure to my fields from animals that had eaten hay contaminated with 2,4-D. (The owners of the animals were also unaware of the contamination.) Even after the 2,4-D contaminated hay had been digested and the manure was well composted, the effects in my fields were devastating--I lost crops of tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables. Several independent plant pathologists identified the signs of the withered and malformed crops as effects of 2,4-D. I experienced the effects of the contamination, which included widespread germination failure, for at least 2 years after the initial application of manure.This herbicide is clearly harmful to plants and the environment and its effects can unintentionally spread far beyond the intended target. This is unacceptable and we must be protected from harm.
The USDA must represent the best interests of our food system and environment by denying approval for 2,4-D resistant corn and soy."
More than 10,000 comments have been received on the USDA Environmental Impact Statement on the 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans. The measured tone of the USDA’s EIS tends to suggest that the alarms raised about the 2,4-D resistant grain crops are overblown. If the USDA is wrong, the “never the twain shall meet” worlds of grains and produce will crash together in a dystopian reality no one wants to see.