Texas House Hears Pair of Anti-Pesticide Bills—This week, committees in the Texas House of Representatives heard two bills that addressed the role of the state legislature in the regulation of pesticides. On Tuesday evening, the House committee on Public Health heard HB 3451, a bill by freshman Representative Lynn Stucky. The next day, the House committee on Agriculture & Livestock heard veteran lawmaker Jessica Farrar’s HB 1535. HB 3451 is a bill designed to delay the implementation of Warfarin (Kaput) for use on feral hogs, while HB 1535 is aimed at restricting the Texas Department of Transportation’s application of neonicotinoid products on highway and public road rights of way.
The Public Health hearing for HB 3451, marked by contentious debate between agricultural and environmental groups, ran late into Tuesday night. The bill requires that any pesticide intended to be used on feral hogs must undergo additional environmental impact studies that aren’t funded by industry before receiving approval for application. Although TGSA understands the initial reticence about repurposing a type of rat poison for feral hogs, we stood with Texas Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations in opposition to the mandatory study. Agriculture groups disputed environmentalist assessments that Warfarin had not been studied thoroughly enough by maintaining that the product’s label was construed narrowly enough to prevent any unintended consequences. Tracy Tomascik delivered testimony on behalf of Texas Farm Bureau, urging members of the committee to appreciate the Environmental Protection Agency’s existing registration of Warfarin by insisting that, “we cannot pick and choose which EPA registrations we accept and which we do not.” Agriculture knows all too well how rigorous the EPA’s registration process is, so questioning the legitimacy of products that have already been approved may have disastrous consequences.
Kody Bessent, of Plains Cotton Growers, echoed Mr. Tomascik’s concerns by warning the committee of the slippery slope this bill would establish for future crop protection registrations. Should HB 3451 become law, it would allow for the state to interpolate itself into an already-laborious crop protection registration process. The introduction of greater regulatory burdens would stand in contrast to every stand the state has taken against the EPA on behalf of its growers. Despite these concerns, coupled with testimonies explaining the urgent need for expanded tools to combat the feral hogs, the committee is likely to vote the bill out. All members of the committee had already co-signed the bill before the hearing, joining over 120 (out of 150) House members in doing so.
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture & Livestock committee hosted a similar debate on the role of the state in regulating crop protection during a hearing for HB 1535. The bill targets the neonicotinoid class of pesticide for its purported threat to bee populations, seeking to prohibit TxDoT from applying any neonic on public road or highway rights of way. The hearing was comprised largely of environmental interest groups placing the blame for a recent decline in pollinator populations squarely on neonics. Texas A&M AgriLife provided a resource witness who helped dispel many of the oversimplifications pushed by these environmental groups, reminding members of the committee that the cause of pollinator population decline was far from settled and that recent trends in scientific literature suggest a complex intersection of environmental and biological stressors is more to blame than any one factor.
Since the Agriculture committee was less favorable to HB 1535 than Public Health was to HB 3451, Representative Farrar sought to sway them by trying to frame the bill as having a limited scope. Rep. Farrar went on, however, to say that the bill would be “an important first step” towards greater restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids. This attempted incrementalism is the main reason TGSA registered our opposition to the bill. We would be disheartened to see the Texas legislature adopt regulatory policies that are as unsubstantiated and grounded in emotion as the EPA policies we have opposed for years. We will continue to be your voice in Austin each and every day, and as always please reach out to Patrick Wade at Patrick@texassorghum.org for any questions or concerns you may have about the Texas Legislature.
Above: Jeff Nunley, South Texas Cotton and Grain – Executive Director, Kody Bessent – Plain Cotton Growers Vice-President of Legislative Affairs and Patrick Wade with TGSA discussing agricultural related bills in front of the Texas House of Representative chamber on Thursday prior to a committee hearing on the feral hog bill.
Assessing the Impact of Planting Date, Insecticide Seed Treatments, and Resistant Varieties of Sorghum on Timing and Severity of SCA Infestations in Texas High Plains— We evaluated how planting date (early – May 11, common – June 23), hybrids (susceptible – DKS44-20, and tolerant – DKS37-07), and insecticide seed treatments (with and without Poncho®) affected sugarcane aphid numbers and yield. We used the 50-125 aphids/leaf as threshold and foliar insecticide (Sivanto®, 4 oz/A) applications were triggered when aphids reached these numbers. We report that:
- Within 2 weeks of colonization, aphids on susceptible hybrids reached the threshold, while aphids on the tolerant hybrids reached threshold within 3 weeks.
- Aphids were successfully controlled for 3-4 weeks when foliar insecticides were applied at 50-125 aphids/leaf.
- Insecticide seed treatments lowered aphid numbers in sorghum planted at the common planting date, but not in early-planted sorghum.
- Seed treatments did not affect yield and yields of the tolerant hybrid were comparable to yields of the susceptible hybrids when aphids were sprayed. When aphids were not sprayed, the tolerant hybrid out-yielded the susceptible hybrid.
We conclude that intense scouting in late July and early August is very important and foliar insecticide treatments may be needed within 2 weeks of colonization for susceptible sorghum and within 3 weeks for tolerant hybrid. Aphid numbers in tolerant hybrid increased slower and this may be very helpful in timing foliar sprays before aphids start increasing exponentially, at which point it is nearly impossible to control them. Principal Investigator: Ada Szczepaniec; Other Investigators: Jourdan Bell, Pat Porter, Blayne Reed; Cooperator: Ed Bynum, Emi Kimura, Kay Ledbetter
EPA Denies Environmentalists’ Petition on Chlorpyrifos—On March 29, the Environmental Protection Agency, under the new direction of Scott Pruitt, denied a petition filed in 2007 by environmental groups calling for a ban on the pesticide Chlorpyrifos, a major win for the agricultural industry. The decision reverses a November 2016 EPA proposal that called for revoking the pesticide’s permitted tolerances. According to the agency’s notice, “further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from human exposures to Chlorpyrifos.” National Sorghum Producers has actively supported keeping Chlorpyrifos in the hands of sorghum producers and is encouraged by the EPA’s decision.
Market Perspectives—Sorghum: Net sales of 16,700 MT for 2016/2017 resulted as increases for China (62,600 MT, including 58,000 MT switched from unknown destinations and decreases of 200 MT) and Mexico (14,500 MT), were partially offset by reductions for unknown destinations (57,500 MT) and Japan (3,000 MT). Exports of 58,300 MT were up noticeably from the previous week, but down 20 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (57,800 MT) and Mexico (500 MT).