American Soybean Association President Alan Kemper is part of the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, known as AC21. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has charged this group with developing recommendations for strengthening coexistence among different agricultural production methods.
"His charge to the committee was three-fold," Kemper said. "One is to see if there is any damage being caused in agriculture by unintended GE products in unintended crops. Two is if there is, what are the mechanisms that may solve the situation with that; is there programs in crop insurance that can be improved upon or is there a new indemnity funds that need to be created. Then the third is how does coexistence work, how do farmers get along better with that."
At the committee's first meeting for 2011, Kemper made it clear that the AC21 committee needs to know facts and figures, not assumptions and perceptions, when it comes to coexistence.
"I asked Deputy Secretary (Kathleen) Merrigan when she came in and gave her proposals to provide the committee facts with that," Kemper said. "She seemed to be reluctant, so we hope that the USDA will find fact and figures to base any damages out here on the countryside. And any other farmers, whether they're organic or conventional come forward with the facts on an aggregate scale for the damages with them."
AC21 members will hold three additional face-to-face meetings in the next 12 months to develop their recommendations for Secretary Vilsack.
"As we go forward with our working group to see if there is enough scope and the size of it to warrant a national program with that or is it a state by state question, or is it a local question," Kemper said. "So we have our work cut out for us over the next 12 months."
The AC21 was originally established in 2003 and has been revived by Secretary Vilsack.