Texas Sorghum Insider

September 8, 2017

Assessing the Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Cereal Grains and Oilseeds—Due to the effects of Hurricane Harvey many associations representing producers, grain handlers and processors are working alongside the Office of the Texas State Chemist (OTSC) to assess the potential impact the flooding has had on cereal grains and oilseeds. Damaged cereal grains and oilseeds containing toxins, chemical adulterants or otherwise, meets the definition of adulterated, thus falling under the authority of the Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service of OTSC per the Texas Commercial Feed Control Act (§141.002 and §141.148).

“Our desire is to provide legal certainty to the agriculture community and preserve market quality and integrity during the recovery process,” -State Chemist, Dr. Tim Herrman.

OTSC will assist farmers, grain handlers and processors in assessing damage and provide testing services (e.g., mycotoxin, heavy metals, microbiology) at no cost. Each situation is different; damage may range from none to total. Some loss may be covered by insurance companies or federal agencies that provide loss assessment and will assist producers managing product disposition.

Working with moisture damaged or moldy grain poses a human health hazard as well as numerous worker safety risks ranging from engulfment to oxygen depletion resulting from mold growth. Do not enter grain bins containing water damaged grain without the appropriate precautions. Some of the best expertise involves your local commercial grain elevator operators. Further assistance will be provided by OTSC who is coordinating the farm level response for the Texas All Hazards Rapid Response Team in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Help us preserve market quality in Texas! If your commodity has been touched by any flood waters, contact the Office of the Texas State Chemist at 979 845-1121.

For questions, please contact:
Ben Jones
Compliance Officer
Office of the Texas State Chemist
Phone: 979 845-1121
Website: otsc.tamu.edu

NAFTA Renegotiations, Round Two in the Books—This week, negotiators from Canada, Mexico, and the United States wrapped up the second round of NAFTA renegotiations in Mexico City. Although representatives from each country participated in a press conference after talks ended in which they declared their mutual intent to reach an agreement by the end of the calendar year, sources from inside the negotiation room suggest there are still many hurdles yet to clear.

According to first-hand accounts of the negotiations, the dialogue between the three member countries has yet to broach the thorniest issues. Instead, they have largely occupied themselves with simpler proposals – such as technical and digital modernization of various programs – that are easily agreed upon. Specifically, in agriculture, discussions have focused on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, drawing almost entirely from the Trans-Pacific Partnership language on the subject. More difficult market access issues, such as Canadian dairy and poultry practices, have not yet been addressed.

There is one area where progress has been made on an issue that affects agriculture. Unfortunately, it may be at the expense of American agricultural interests. President Trump and his administration have singled out Chapter 19, which deals with settling disputes between member nations, as a liability to American interests. Chapter 19 provides for a panel made up of experts from member states to review and judge disputes about a country’s anti-dumping or countervailing duty practices. This framework has generally benefitted agriculture. Considering, however, that the United States’ negotiation team is largely comprised of steel industry veterans – an industry that has historically lost many rulings under these panels – it is clear why the administration would pursue abolition of the chapter. Abolition of Chapter 19 would mean any disputes American agriculture groups may have about trade practices in Mexico or Canada would have to be evaluated by Mexican or Canadian courts instead of a binational panel. American agricultural trade experts are highly pessimistic about agriculture’s chances of getting fair treatment in such a framework.

The third round of negotiations will be held in Canada from September 22-27. Experts expect the thornier issues to emerge in this round, the outcome of which will likely dictate the viability of achieving the goal of completing the renegotiation by the end of 2017. The specter of termination still looms over these negotiations, though. By adopting a bullying approach to the talks and proposing untenable ideas such as the elimination of Chapter 19, some experts are worried that the United States is laying the ground for an executive order terminating the agreement on the grounds that no compromise could be reached. As of now, though, the goal remains to renegotiate an agreement all three countries will accept. TGSA will continue to update you as negotiations proceed.

STAR Funds Available to Producers Following Disaster—The STAR Fund (State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund) was created solely with monetary donations from private individuals and companies. STAR Fund money may be used to assist farmers and ranchers in rebuilding fences, restoring operations and paying for other agricultural disaster relief. If you’d like to help folks impacted by the wildfire, floods or tornadoes, consider making a donation to the STAR Fund. TDA is offering a cost share (50% of eligible expense) to qualified agricultural producers not to exceed $4,000 per applicant. Example:  A producer would need to submit documentation for $2,000 of eligible expenses to receive $1,000 in reimbursement. STAR Fund money may be used to assist farmers and ranchers in rebuilding fences, restoring operations and paying for other agricultural disaster relief costs needed to rebuild their producer operations. If the farmer and rancher’s county is listed the Texas Governor’s declaration of disaster, they have 90 days from the date of his proclamation to turn in an application. “Every day, we depend on farmers and ranchers to provide our families with the healthy food and warm clothes that sustains our lives, and now is the time for Texas producers to lean on us,” Commissioner Miller said. “This is not a hand out, rather it’s a helping hand. I hope people will take advantage of these funds if you need them.” Funds are not intended to compensate individuals or businesses for losses incurred, but to assist agriculture producers in cost-sharing some of the unexpected expenses associated with the repair or replacement of items necessary for their agricultural operation. If you would like to donate to the fund or are interested in eligibility requirements, click here.

John Deere Acquires Blue River Technology—John Deere announced Wednesday the acquisition of Blue River Technology. Based in Sunnyvale California, Blue River Technology, has designed and integrated computer vision and machine learning technology that will enable growers to reduce the use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present. Additionally, Blue River has been instrumental in the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy sorghum research by doing the drone work to evaluate crop stress. Already in 2017, Blue River Technology has been listed among Inc. Magazine’s 25 Most Disruptive Companies, Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, CB Insights 100 Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies in the World and the Top 50 Agricultural Innovations by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.