Russian ban on U.S. grain might be in violation of WTO rules

Kim Nill

Russia claims some U.S. corn and soybean shipments last month were contaminated and has imposed an indefinite import ban.

Minnesota Soybean director of market development Kim Nill calls the move a “kitchen sink accusation.”

“Where they said in various public pronouncements that they are banning (soybeans) because of quarantined pests.  Well, when you dug into it, you found out what they meant was what we in America would call a noxious weed seed.”

Russian officials also report finding foreign bacteria in U.S. soybean shipments and dry rot in corn.

Nill tells Brownfield these actions by Russia are in clear violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

“There are procedures (that) have been in place for more than a half-century to prevent any accidental introduction of noxious weed seeds into the importing country.  This is all done under a treaty signed back in the 1970’s by everyone basically that exports and imports ag commodities.”

Including Russia, who Nill says needs to prove current U.S. measures aren’t enough to contain noxious weeds to remain WTO-compliant.

“Well, sorry, 55 years of successful weed containment argue otherwise.  Another little problem they have is in the last few years they’ve imported up to a half-million tons of U.S. soybeans each year, so what was different then?  It’s not like our weed seeds have changed that might be present in soybean exports.”

While not considered a major consumer of U.S. corn, Nill views Russia as a decent market for soybeans with annual imports of between 300 to 500,000 metric tons.

He says a silver lining is that most of Russia’s soybean imports this time of year come from South America, and Nill hopes the ban will be resolved before the U.S. harvest begins in late summer.





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