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NAMA Calculates Impact of Methyl Bromide Ban to Exceed $60 Million Annually

September 23, 2002

CONTACT: James Bair, Vice President
202.484.2200, ext.107
jbair@namamillers.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 23, 2002 – The North American Millers' Association (NAMA) has presented an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exempt NAMA members from a ban on methyl bromide (MB) fumigant. MB is used by millers to keep grain mills clean, sanitary and free from insects. The NAMA exemption application calculated the cost of a MB ban to the grain milling industry at more than $60 million annually. The largest component of the impact was from lost revenues as a result of the additional downtime required to sanitize mills with potential alternatives, which are slower acting.

“Mill cleanliness is expected by consumers and required by FDA regulations,” said NAMA chairman Bernard J. Rothwell III. “NAMA members are committed to meeting, and exceeding, those expectations. MB is the best tool we have for doing that.”

MB was alleged to be an ozone-depleting substance more than a decade ago and is being phased out. Improvements in the scientific understanding of how MB behaves in the atmosphere have resulted in reductions in estimates of the damage it might cause. Scientists now believe that the ozone hole will be healed over the coming years, and banning methyl bromide will not significantly accelerate that healing. When a third cut is implemented January 1, 2003, the phase out will be 70 percent complete. MB will be totally banned on January 1, 2005. Mills have already cut MB usage dramatically. While the EPA-approved dosage is 6.0 pounds per thousand cubic feet, millers use only 1.25 pounds or less.

“Under United Nations rules, our agricultural competitors get to keep using MB, so banning it here only hurts U.S. agriculture without any benefit to the environment,” Rothwell continued.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent more than $100 million researching alternatives, with little success. “We need additional time with which to develop economically and technically feasible alternatives,” said Rothwell.

MB is used to fumigate the mill structure, not raw grain or milled grain products. MB is also used to fumigate the soil in the production of tree seedlings and many fruits and vegetables, as well as for protecting museums, imported spices, coffee and cocoa and other important uses.

NAMA has 42 member companies operating 164 wheat, corn, oat and rye mills in 38 states and 150 cities. The aggregate production capacity of NAMA's membership is more than 160 million pounds of product daily, which is about 90% of the total U.S. capacity.

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