Texas Sorghum Insider

July 14, 2017

Tensions Mount as Lawmakers File Bills for Special Session—With less than a week until the special session of the 85th Texas Legislature gavels in, lawmakers are now allowed to file bills for consideration. Although Governor Abbott declared his list of twenty items that he hopes will be accomplished by the end of the 30 day session, lawmakers are allowed to file bills on any subject they wish. It is the governor’s discretion to sign bills into law; he is not limited to exclusively signing bills that fall under the purview of his aforementioned twenty items.

Some legislators, however, have a much narrower target for this special session. Members of the House of Representatives and other interest groups have been touting the mantra “Sunset and Sine Die” to describe their intentions for this special session. “Sunset” is referring to the first order of business for the House and Senate: authorizing the continued function of the Texas Medical Board. Then, as these members – mostly democrats and centrist, business-oriented republicans – would have it, the legislature would adjourn, effectively ignoring the rest of the governor’s agenda.

“Sunset and Sine Die” hasn’t pervaded every legislator’s mind, though, because as of today House members have filed 129 bills and Senators have filed 19. The 19 Senate bills roughly correspond to Governor Abbott’s agenda, but the House bills stem from a variety of motivations. Some legislators are refiling bills that failed to pass during the regular session. Some are refiling bills that were vetoed by Governor Abbott after passing both chambers. For instance, Rep. Phil Stephenson filed HB 103, a near replica of HB 572, which was vetoed by the governor. The original bill, which TGSA fully supported, would have established a pesticide disposal fund in coordination with Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and Texas A&M AgriLife. The special session version of the bill is the same, except it removes TCEQ’s involvement in the program.

School finance, property taxes, and municipal annexation are just some of the many subjects of legislation filed for this special session. So far, there haven’t been any bills besides Rep. Stephenson’s pesticide disposal bill that directly address agricultural issues. TGSA will be monitoring developments in Austin throughout the next month to ensure this special session’s agenda remains acutely focused on the governor’s agenda and doesn’t snowball into something that could hurt producers or the industry.

SCA Resources—As producers begin to make decisions regarding best management practices for the sugarcane aphid, here is a reminder of resources available to help manage the pest:

If you have further questions regarding the SCA please reach out to a staff member and we will do our best help, or point you in the direction of someone who can.

Anti-WOTUS Measures Continue—Two House spending bills targeting the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule are closer to becoming law. The House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal 2018 energy and water spending bill yesterday and the House appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Environmental Protection Agency sent its spending bill to the full committee for consideration. Together, the bills authorize the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the WOTUS rule by bypassing the notice and comment process that are normally required by the Administrative Procedure Act to repeal a rule. National Sorghum Producers supports these measures as this helps alleviate unnecessary regulations for sorghum farmers.

Export Report—Sorghum exports were strong this week with China and Mexico committing to purchase 2.3 million bushels. China committed to purchase 90 percent of the new commitments, signaling continued strong demand by China. This brings total commitments for the year to 179 million bushels, or 83 percent, of the USDA export target. Exports are still ahead of the five year average pace and very similar to last year’s pace. Deliveries were stable with shipments to China and Mexico totaling 4.1 million bushels. Prices on the Gulf Coast were stable for July delivery at 120 percent corn prices or $4.83. New crop interior bids remained steady.