Texas House Speaker Joe Straus Announces He Will Not Seek Re-election—In a shocking announcement Wednesday morning, Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) revealed that he would not be seeking reelection in 2018, neither for his House seat nor his Speakership. The move came as a massive surprise to everyone in Austin, from Straus’s peers to political foes. Just last month, Speaker Straus had adamantly expressed his interest in pursuing a record sixth consecutive term as Speaker of the House.
Speaker Straus came into the spotlight this past legislative session for his numerous public spats with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick over Patrick’s prioritization of the anti-transgender bathroom bill, private school vouchers, and sanctuary cities. During the interim, the House Freedom Caucus, who are ideologically aligned with Lt. Governor Patrick, had been exploring ways to limit Speaker Straus’s power. Speaker Straus leaves a legacy as a divisive speaker: the hard-right representatives saw Straus as an obstacle to their agenda; whereas the more moderate, business-oriented republicans felt he was their trusted champion. There has been a buzz of speculation in recent days about what is next for Straus, but at the time all he has committed to is remaining an active participant in his allies’ 2018 campaigns.
Last month, Representative Phil King (R-Weatherford) announced he would challenge Straus for Speakership in the 86th Session in 2019. Just an hour after Straus announced he would be stepping down, Dr. John Zerwas (R-Katy) announced he too would pursue the Speakership next session. Dr. Zerwas was a close ally of Speaker Straus this past session, and chaired the powerful House Appropriations committee, which authored the budget. There are likely to be many more representatives to throw their hats into the ring in the coming months, and TGSA will continue to report that information to you.
EPA Makes Changes to Labels for Popular New Dicamba Herbicides for 2018 Crop Year—On the heels of significant complaints of drift damage involving the herbicide Dicamba, the EPA has announced changes to the label for Monsanto’s XtendiMax, BASF’s Engenia, and DuPont Pioneer’s FeXapan. Specifically, these products will now be restricted use only, requiring users to be certified applicators and requiring specific Dicamba training. Additionally, top wind speeds allowed for application will decrease from 15 mph to 10 mph, applications may be made only from sunrise to sunset, and additional rules regarding tank clean out and recordkeeping will apply. [Read EPA News Release here and article here.] This article first appeared in Texas Ag Law.
USDA Withdraws GIPSA Rules—The USDA withdrew two rules under the Farmer Fair Practices Rules of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stock Yards Act last week. The first was an interim final rule, set to go into effect on October 19, addressing harm to competition. The second was a proposed rule addressing unfair practices and undue preferences. Agricultural trade groups and legislators from agricultural states come down on both sides of the fence, some praising the withdrawal and others sharing their disappointment. [Read article here.] This article first appeared in Texas Ag Law.
Texas Interim Charges Announced—This past week, both the Texas House and Senate released the list of issues for committees to research over the interim. Last month, each chamber released a limited set of charges related to Hurricane Harvey. This new round of charges touches on a wide range of issues, and you can read the House’s full list here and the Senate’s here and here. If you are interested in being politically active, I encourage you to read through these charges and reach out to Patrick Wade if you have any questions. For an issue to be formally acknowledged in the list of interim charges means it will almost certainly be discussed during the 2019 session.
Below is a (paraphrased) selection of charges that pertain to agriculture:
- Assess viability of a crop improvement association replacing Texas Department of Agriculture on seed certification
- Further research declining migratory species such as monarch butterflies and bees
- Review state of infrastructure on ports and identify impediments to international trade
- Examine Texas eminent domain laws and make recommendations to improve accountability
- Evaluate the progress of aquifer-wide management and permitting practices in groundwater management planning
- Review viability of streamlining permitting process for surface water rights
- Make recommendations for state licenses and fees that could be reduced, repealed, or transitioned to private-sector enforcement
- Review funding of state ports and make recommendations for future investment
Export Report—Export commitments moderated this week after a historic start to the marketing year. Shipments continued to be strong, though, with China and Mexico taking delivery of 2.8 million bushels. At this pace, total shipments to China will reach one billion bushels by spring 2018. Price continued to be firm in the interior as well as on the Gulf Coast where bids for delivery to the vessel maintained a large premium to corn.