Texas Sorghum Insider

April 20, 2018

Statements on Preliminary Duties from China Against U.S. Sorghum— “National Sorghum Producers is deeply disappointed in the preliminary antidumping determination issued today by China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). U.S. sorghum is not being dumped in China, and U.S. sorghum producers and exporters have not caused any injury to China’s sorghum industry.

“National Sorghum Producers, alongside our producers, stakeholders and partners, has cooperated fully with China’s antidumping and countervailing duty investigations, including submitting several thousand pages of data demonstrating conclusively that U.S. sorghum is neither dumped nor causing any injury to China. None of this information appears to have been seriously considered or used in today’s preliminary determination, which is neither fair nor appropriate.

“We continue to greatly value our Chinese customers and what has been a win-win business relationship between U.S. sorghum producers and our Chinese partners. Today’s decision in China reflects a broader trade fight in which U.S. sorghum farmers are the victim, not the cause. And U.S. sorghum farmers should not be paying the price for this larger fight.

“Understanding the serious impact this preliminary decision will have on our farmers, NSP and our partners will continue to demonstrate U.S. sorghum farmers are not injuring China. We are evaluating all legal options moving forward.”

Secretary Perdue also released the following statement Wednesday:
“The international grain market is about the freest market there is, and it is ludicrous to even mention ‘dumping,’ because China can buy product from anywhere they choose. This is clearly a political decision by the Chinese and we reject their premise. Our sorghum producers are the most competitive in the world and we do not believe there is any basis in fact for these actions. As we explore options, we are in communication with the American sorghum industry and stand united with them. The fact remains that China has engaged in unfair trade practices over decades and President Trump is correct in holding them accountable. We remain committed to protecting American agricultural producers in the face of retaliatory measures by the Chinese.”

Farm Bill Passes House Committee—On Wednesday, the House Committee on Agriculture passed the 2018 Agriculture and Nutrition Act along party lines. Republicans voted to advance the legislation out of committee after listening to hours of bitter frustrations from Democrats about being excluded from the drafting process. The Democrats’ primary grievance was related to new provisions within Title IV of the Farm Bill that will create state-level programs to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries receive work training. Democrats felt that as a result of their being left out of the drafting process the legislation did not pay enough attention to the details and that many SNAP recipients who do not deserve to lose their benefits would fall through the cracks.

Commodity organizations across the country praised Chairman Mike Conaway (R – Midland) for passing the legislation, which includes strong Title I provisions to assist producers in times of financial uncertainty. Chairman Conaway has now made it clear that his goal is to find enough votes in the House to pass the bill. Democrats have declared that they will not support the bill so long as the SNAP work training programs remain in it. Chairman Conaway has indicated he would like the move the bill through the House floor by the end of May.

National Sorghum Foundation Scholarships Open—Applications for three Sorghum Foundation scholarships are now available. These scholarships all include a $1500 monetary scholarship award. The Bruce Maunder Sorghum Leadership Scholarship also includes an expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to accompany NSP leadership on their annual D.C. fly-in which takes place early February 2019. Scholarship information can be found here. Scholarship application packets must be postmarked by June 1 to be considered.

Cash Lease Rate in Texas—Each year, NASS surveys landowners and producers about current lease rates and, in August, publishes a report of the average lease rates (price per acre per year) for irrigated cropland, non-irrigated cropland, and pastureland for the United States and each state. For example, in 2017, nationwide averages were reported as $212 per acre per year for irrigated cropland, $123 for non-irrigated cropland, and $12.50 for pastureland. In Texas, the average lease rates were $87 for irrigated cropland, $28 for non-irrigated cropland, and $6.60 for pastureland (available at here). Every other year, NASS breaks down this data further by reporting data by district within a state and by county. This report is available in September of even-numbered years. Texas is divided into 15 districts, and average cash rent values reported for each one. For example, for the Northern High Plains in 2016, cash lease rates were reported as $113 for irrigated cropland, $22 for non-irrigated cropland, and $7.80 for pastureland. Similar results are available for each district on the USDA–NASS website (available at here). NASS also maintains a database including data analyzed by county for each even-numbered year. For example, average reported lease rates in Dallam County for 2016 are $97.50 for irrigated cropland, $55.50 for non-irrigated cropland, and $6.10 for pastureland. This piece first appeared in the Texas Ag Law Blog. To read the entire story, click here.

NSP Accepting Applications for Board Directors 
National Sorghum Producers is accepting applications from candidates who wish to serve on the board of directors. Candidates for the board must be a member of the National Sorghum Producers and have a passion for working on behalf of sorghum growers through lobbying and fundraising activities. The NSP board is not limited to growers, and there is no experience necessary to apply. If you have a desire to improve the sorghum industry through one of the four available leadership positions, NSP encourages you to apply. Applications are available at SorghumGrowers.com and will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. CST on May 11, 2018. Contact Debra Lloyd at 806-749-3478 if you have any questions.

April 6, 2017

China Tariffs—This week, China announced another schedule of tariffs in response to the United States’ $50 billion tariffs stemming from a Section 301 investigation into Chinese policies regarding the forced transfer of intellectual properties. About one-third of the products on the newest round of Chinese tariffs are agricultural, amounting to roughly $17 billion worth of Chinese imports. These agricultural products include soybeans, corn and corn products, wheat, sorghum, cotton, beef and beef products, cranberries, orange juice, and tobacco and tobacco products. The proposed tariff level is 25%. No timetable has been established for when these most recent schedules of both American and Chinese tariffs will take effect.

In response to the announcement of these tariffs, National Sorghum Producers Chairman Don Bloss released a statement, which is excerpted below and can be read in its entirety here:

“Trade wars are not good for anyone, and we urge President Trump and other negotiators to take a constructive approach in the ongoing negotiations that do not threaten more harm to U.S. sorghum producers. Our hope is that this situation will be resolved sooner rather than later. Sorghum is good for U.S. farmers and traders, and good for China.”

 Auxin Training—Since January more than 100 auxin training meetings have been scheduled across the state. This training was mandated by the EPA for all individuals who will be applying three newly formulated dicamba products because of a large number of off-target movement claims that occurred across several states in 2017. The three newly registered low-volatility dicamba herbicides are: XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® Technology (Monsanto, which received federal approval in November 2016), Engenia® Herbicide (BASF, approved December 2017), and DuPont® FeXapan® herbicide Plus VaporGrip® Technology (approved February 2017). In late 2017, EPA approved label revisions for these products, which are set to expire in November/December of 2018. Label renewals will depend largely on on-target application success in 2018. This training applies to all labeled uses of these herbicides. Enlist Duo™ and Enlist ONE™ are not a part of this required training, although the principles of on-target application can be applied to all herbicide applications. This training not only satisfies the federal requirement but also satisfies the Texas Department of Agriculture requirement for auxin specific training. For more information click here or to find a meeting in your area click here.

Evaluating Benefits of a Sorghum-Cotton Rotation to Encourage Sorghum Re-Expansion in the Rolling Plains—Principal Investigator: Curtis Adams; this research was funded by the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board
Grain sorghum was historically a major crop in the Rolling Plains region of north-central Texas. Due to a variety of factors, grain sorghum acreage declined in the region and monocropping of cotton became the predominant summer cropping system. But the current continuous cotton system is prone to inefficiency and it degrades the land. In the experiment, a sorghum-cotton rotation, including both sequences of the crop rotation (i.e. sorghum-cotton and cotton-sorghum), were compared to a continuous cotton cropping system in dryland conditions. To determine potential benefits of the rotation with sorghum, the following assessments of the treatments were made: annual determination of crop productivity and yield; year-round measurement of soil moisture content; annual determination of soil nitrogen and carbon; and a simple annual assessment of variable input costs and proceeds based on local economic factors. In the initial two years of the project, environmental conditions varied widely between years. The first year, 2016, was a successful cropping season for producers in the Rolling Plains region and yields were good. In 2017, sorghum was planted in early May, but a prolonged dry period following planting reduced sorghum yield and prevented planting of cotton for more than a month and a half. Cotton was finally planted in late June, but an earlier than average frost caused failure of the cotton crop. Economic analysis showed that potential economic returns are greater for cotton than grain sorghum, but potential losses are also greater.

Fig. 1 Economic analysis showing estimates of net returns for grain sorghum-cotton rotational systems (differing in sequence) and continuous (monocrop) cotton. The analysis is based on data collected in the project from 2016 and 2017. Both low and high price estimates are shown, with yearly averages and grand averages calculated. (GS, grain sorghum.)

Due to crop failure in cotton in 2017, the greatest net economic return in the study was obtained in the cotton-sorghum cropping system as compared to continuous cotton and the sorghum-cotton system (by virtue of crop timing). Soil moisture data suggested that surface soil moisture was greater following sorghum than following cotton; continued data collection in future years will help to clarify the impact of this. The higher soil moisture may have been the result of higher surface residue following sorghum, which aided in increasing water infiltration and reducing evaporation.

Fig. 2 Soil moisture content at eight depths, 0 to 160 cm, over the course of time in three systems. The labeled bars towards the top of each graph signify the period over which the respective crops were grown in each system.

Section 18 Granted for Transform in Multiple States in 2018—Sorghum farmers in Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Virginia have all been granted Section Emergency Use Exemption for the use of sulfoxaflor on grain sorghum for the 2018 growing season. Sulfoxaflor is the active ingredient in Transform WG and gives sorghum farmers more flexibility when treating for the sugarcane aphid. Learn more at DefendYourCrop.com

March 23, 2018

Trump Announces New Tariffs on Chinese Goods—On March 22, President Trump announced that the Office of the United States Trade Representative had concluded its investigation into China’s practices regarding the transfers of intellectual property and technology. Under the rarely invoked Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, the federal government has the authority to take action against practices by foreign governments that violate international trade agreements or burden American commerce.

Upon conclusion of this investigation, the President authorized the USTR to pursue $60 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods and investments. Although this outcome did not come as a surprise, it arrives at an already turbulent time in United States’ trade policy. In a statement, the United States Grains Council, of which Texas Grain Sorghum Producers is a member, said, “While we are not surprised, we are dismayed at new tariffs announced today by the Trump Administration against China, which will almost certainly prompt immediate and painful retaliation against U.S. agriculture.”

USTR has not yet announced which Chinese exports they will target with these tariffs, but they are expected to release that list in the next 15 days. Experts fear that these new tariffs will result in reciprocal action against American exports, particularly agricultural goods. National Sorghum Producers continues to lead the sorghum industry and other stakeholders in full cooperation with the Chinese anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations into American sorghum launched last month. Texas Grain Sorghum Association understands that this week’s unprecedented events only compound the already considerable levels of uncertainty regarding the nature of our relationship with China; TGSA is committed to providing you updates on the exhaustive efforts that are being undertaken in order to protect the interests of the sorghum industry.

Section 199A Fix Imminent—Lawmakers have reached a tentative deal to correct unintended consequences of a provision of the new tax-reform law that benefits cooperatives. There remain concerns on whether the bill can be attached to the FY18 omnibus spending bill to be considered later this month. The current deduction, intended to mimic and replace the benefits of the repealed Section 199, gives farmers more generous deductions when they sell directly to co-ops rather than privily-held or investor-owned companies. The provision has resulted in a competitive imbalance impacting numerous agricultural value chain stakeholders, including grain handlers, feed mills, seed companies, ag retailers, biofuels producers, banks, livestock marketers and dairy processors. The new legislation is intended to restore the benefit of the old Section 199 while providing some of the additional benefits cooperatives received in Section 199A. 

FMCSA Extends Agricultural Exemption to New Hauling Regulations—The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it will extend the current waiver of the new hauling rules related to hours of service another 90 days, extending the waiver period through June 18, 2018.  This means that the new regulations related to hours of service and electronic logging devices will not apply to people hauling agricultural commodities, supplies, livestock, or horses.  The waiver does not apply to the rules regarding Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs) for agricultural haulers.  [Read announcement here.]

March 9, 2018

Incumbents Face, Largely Survive, Wave of Primary Challengers—On Tuesday, March 6 Texans from all parties lined up to vote in primary elections ahead of the fall 2018 midterms. Given Texas’s status as the first state in the nation to hold primary elections, the results were widely reported on by national media as a bellwether of President Trump’s approval in a traditionally conservative state. However, to Texans and those focused on the state legislature, this week’s elections were a test of a different phenomenon: the influence of far-right campaigns against moderate Republican incumbents.

When five-time Speaker of the House Joe Straus, a moderating force within the Republican party, announced last October he would not seek reelection in 2018, many in the far-right saw their opportunity to seize the political influence that Speaker Straus had denied them in the past. Although certain groups such as Empower Texans pumped more money into candidates challenging moderate incumbents than most, these challengers were supported and motivated by many different figures and factors.

Before breaking down the various challenges to moderate incumbents, it’s important to note that one race was unique in both the backing of the challenger and its importance to Texas agriculture. In his challenge for Commissioner of Agriculture, Austin-based lobbyist Trey Blocker, who was largely self-financed and was not a priority of groups seeking to oust moderate Republicans, was soundly defeated by incumbent Sid Miller. Blocker campaigned as the more conservative alternative to Commissioner Miller. Key tenets of Blocker’s campaign included promises to reverse the Texas Department of Agriculture’s unpopular fee increases, harsher treatment of undocumented immigrants, and an all-around reduction of the Department’s services. Blocker’s message, however, failed to resonate with voters and he fell to third place in the primary results, behind former Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Jim Hogan, who refused to fundraise or campaign. Commissioner Miller received 56% of the vote, avoiding a runoff and almost certainly securing his second term as Texas Agriculture Commissioner.

When looking at state house and state senate races, two common themes emerge. There are races where far-right groups applied pressure on incumbents and there are races where Republican party leaders applied pressure on incumbents. Each of these approaches had mixed results, but incumbents were largely successful in defending their seats.

In the case of the former (far-right groups supporting challenges to moderates) there were two notable races in the house. Representative Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), chairman of the House Administration committee and close ally of Speaker Straus, won 57%-43% against Bo French, one of Empower Texans’ top candidates. Representative Ken King (R-Canadian) also successfully defended his seat against an Empower Texans’ candidate, avoiding a runoff against Jason Huddleston by a mere 103 votes.

Statewide Republican leaders also supported challenges to moderate incumbents. In the House, Governor Greg Abbott campaigned and financed challengers to three Republicans: Representative Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), Representative Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), and Representative Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston). Despite the Governor’s intervention, though, Representatives Davis and Larson each won by more than ten percentage points. Representative Faircloth was defeated by Mayes Middleton, an oilman who also enjoyed the financial backing of Empower Texans.

In the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick played a role in two important primary races. After tensions between the Lt. Governor and Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) over state support for public schools, each of the Republicans decided to stay out of each other’s campaigns. Senator Seliger was the only Republican not to endorse Lt. Governor Patrick (although he did not endorse his challenger, either) and Lt. Governor Patrick did not publicly intervene in Senator Seliger’s race. However, Lt. Governor Patrick is a close ally of Empower Texans, who pumped significant money into Midland Mayor Mike Canon’s challenge and one of Lt. Governor Patrick’s top consultants was reported to be employed by Senator Seliger’s second challenger, restaurateur Victor Leal. Senator Seliger avoided a runoff with Mike Canon by just 322 votes. Lt. Governor Patrick was considerably more involved in Representative Pat Fallon’s challenge to incumbent Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), both contributing funds and conducting polling for the three-term House member. Representative Fallon rode that support to a resounding victory over Senator Estes, winning 62% of the vote to Senator Estes’s 22%.

There were many other noteworthy results this week from across the state. The Texas congressional delegation is facing its largest turnover in decades, and many of those races were effectively determined on Tuesday. If you have any questions about these results, what the state of any races headed into the general election this fall, or would like to discuss the above races further, please contact Patrick Wade at patrick@texassorghum.org.

Transform WG Receives Section 18—Recently, the EPA granted a Section 18 emergency use exemption for Transform WG insecticide for use on sorghum. Sates receiving approval included Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Applications for Section 18 emergency exemptions in additional sorghum-producing states are pending. For more information, click here.

Leadership Sorghum Class IV Application Deadline Next Week—The Sorghum Checkoff is accepting applications for Leadership Sorghum Class IV, a program designed to develop the next generation of sorghum leaders. During the 15-month leadership program, class members will be exposed to various aspects of the sorghum industry in addition to personal development and networking opportunities. Class members will participate in both hands-on and classroom-style learning experiences to gain an understanding of how sorghum moves through the value chain, how checkoffs and stakeholder organizations interact on behalf of the industry and what the future holds for sorghum. Eligible applicants must be farmers actively engaged in sorghum production in the United States. Fifteen growers will be accepted into the program’s fourth class. Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. March 16, 2018. Applications, class schedule and program criteria can be found here.

Export Report—Shipments for the week reached an all time high with China taking the delivery of 16.6 million bushels. Japan also taking deliveries this week and these shipments bring total shipments for the marketing year up to 134.8 million bushels. We have already shipped approximately 55 percent of the project export total for the marketing year. Texas Gulf bids are 110 percent of corn or $5.11 per bushel at the vessel. This does not reflect farmer price but instead is a representation of what exporters are willing to pay. This premium has declined over the last few weeks but remains in place as sorghum is being shipped at a rapid pace. Basis has also softened further north where central Kansas terminals are now bidding -50 for sorghum. However, corn bids are -45 so interior feed grain basis overall has softened.

HPWD Accepting Water Depletion Data Requests—With tax season upon us, HPWD is now accepting requests for data to claim a cost-in-water income tax depletion allowance. This yearly program uses annual water level measurements to determine changes in the water table throughout the District. The information is then made available to land owners for use in preparation of their taxes to determine if a loss of water under their property may constitute a tax break. For more information, click here.

February 20, 2018

NSP Update—National Sorghum Producers continued steps this week to respond to the announcement of anti-dumping and countervailing duties investigations into imports of U.S. sorghum by the Chinese government. Our partners and stakeholders across the industry are working closely together to demonstrate that U.S. sorghum is not dumped into China, it is not unfairly subsidized and is not injuring China.

Meanwhile, it is important our producers know trade with China and other countries continues. Last week’s export report shows exports remaining strong with China committing to purchase 4.6 million bushels of sorghum. Japan also committed to purchase 421,239 bushels to bring the weekly total to just under 5.0 million bushels. Total commitments for the marketing year now stand at 212 million bushels, including 204 million bushels of commitments from China. Shipments were also strong with China taking delivery of 4.8 million bushels and Japan taking delivery of 303,962 bushels shipped from the Pacific Northwest. Basis has recovered from recent shocks driven by trade concerns. Here are select basis bids from around the country:

  • Ohio River: +20 for immediate delivery (compared to +6 for corn)
  • Texas Gulf Coast vessel price: +165 for March delivery (compared to +63 for corn)
  • West Texas and eastern New Mexico: -10 for new crop (compared to -10 for corn)
  • Central Oklahoma: -30 for immediate delivery (compared to -35 for corn)
  • Central Kansas: -50 for new crop (compared to -45 for corn)
  • Central South Dakota: -30 for immediate delivery (compared to -60 for corn)

Trade Surplus—As our government and governments around the world debate the merits of global free trade, it’s important to keep in mind agriculture’s role in bolstering the United States’ trade balance. While every other American industry sector maintains a trade deficit with other countries – both in the North American bloc and around the world – agriculture consistently runs a trade surplus. This is a testament to the quality of American-produced crops and a reminder of the significance of keeping these international markets accessible. Below are two charts provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service. These charts demonstrate the net value of traded agricultural goods in the United States. Take particular note of the widening gap between export and import values over the last decade or so, which indicates that, when provided fair market access, our agricultural goods are as internationally competitive as ever.

Sugarcane Aphid Management on Tolerant Hybrids— Investigators: Michael Brewer, Research Entomologist (Corpus Christi area site, all sites coordination and principal investigator; mjbrewer@ag.tamu.edu); Robert Bowling, Extension Entomologist (Corpus Christi area site /outreach); Allen Knutson, Extension Entomologist (Hunt County coordination); John Gordy, County Extension Agent (Rosenberg area site); Danielle Sekula-Ortiz (Rio Grande Valley area site/outreach; 
This research was funded by Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board

Well timed application(s) of an insecticide can protect high yielding aphid susceptible hybrids from economically damaging populations of sugarcane aphid when using an economic threshold of 50-75 aphids per leaf. Essential in using this strategy is to scout fields for aphids on at least a weekly basis and spray within a few days of exceeding threshold. The scouting card and insecticide use guidelines produced with support from the Texas Grain Sorghum Board helps guide this effort.

For those considering growing commercial ‘tolerant’ or ‘resistant’ hybrids, current season-long research confirms that most but not all of these hybrids express partial protection of plants from sugarcane aphid. With results from 2016 and 2017, we provide guidance on SCA management for these hybrids, under the good growing conditions we experienced in the past two seasons. For some of these hybrids, aphids can be tolerated above the original ET (see Guidance column in table). Here, ‘resistant/tolerant’ hybrids maintained good yield despite aphid presence between 100 and 200 aphids per leaf. For other hybrids, yield loss was seen or variable, justifying continued use of an ET of 50 aphids/leaf. Note, these may be good performing hybrids when aphids are absent or controlled. We advise additional testing of some of these hybrids to verify this work under a range of growing conditions and locations. Those listed as ‘additional testing needed’ have not been confirmed to be highly resistant or tolerant and caution is advised until further testing.

Regarding insecticides, Sivanto Prime (Bayer) at 4.0 fl.oz./ac. or Transform (Dow) at 1.0 oz./ac. is recommended for treatment of SCA. Continued monitoring of SCA is recommended following insecticide application to verify control.  

Changes in Base Acres—Part of the budget fix for cotton includes changes in base acres. Any generic base acres that have not been planted to a covered commodity, including program crops and cotton, from 2009-2016 become unassigned base acres making them ineligible for any Title I farm program payments. This will certainly raise additional base questions on expired CRP acres in the upcoming farm bill debate. 

Plowing Through Food Facts—Texas Farm Bureau recently launched a new video campaign addressing misconceptions regarding agriculture. To see the video and webpage geared toward answering consumer questions, click here.

February 2, 2018

 

Texas Sorghum Joint Annual Meeting—Earlier this week, the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board (TGSB), Texas Grain Sorghum Association (TGSA) and delegate body hosted the third joint annual meeting for the organizations. The meeting took place in Austin in conjunction with the Texas Ag Form. Approximately 50 grain sorghum producers and industry leaders from across the state came together to discuss farm policy, research projects and issues facing sorghum. Austin Wayne Self, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver also stopped by the meeting to discuss his partnership with TGSB, United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP) and TDA through a Biofuels Infrastructure Program Grant (BIP).

“For me it’s more than a logo on a truck— I get to represent something I believe in,” says Self. “When you’ve got a bunch of fans up there it makes it personal. It’s estimated that NASCAR has 80 million Americans out there looking to support a driver and get behind something they believe in. That’s why I think sorghum is so interesting in NASCAR. It’s real easy– you’ve got ethanol fuel, motors and you’ve got trucks racing at peak performance, so it ties into something the fans understand.”

The grant funds were primarily used to install 782 E15 blender pumps throughout Texas at businesses such as H-E-B, along with storage tanks and infrastructure.

Austin Wayne Self speaks to TGSP and delegate body during their annual meeting in Austin.

Round Six of NAFTA Renegotiation Concludes—This week, negotiators from Canada, Mexico and the United States wrapped up the sixth formal round of talks for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement in Montreal, Canada. The negotiations, which began in August of 2017, have often been tense and gridlocked, with each of the member nation’s respective political circumstances casting outsize shadows on the proceedings.

Although the ideology of President Donald Trump was the impetus driving renegotiation in the first place, Mexican presidential politics are beginning to guide the 2018 rounds of negotiation. Mexican negotiators are anxious to reach a conclusion before their presidential election this summer in order to improve the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary party’s standing, particularly in regards to avowed anti-NAFTA challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

As far as agriculture is concerned, progress is being made towards a final agreement, but many hurdles remain to be cleared. Texts relating to sanitary and phytosanitary regulations on the border and the alignment of each country’s biotechnology regulations were nearly completed in this sixth round. These subjects, along with digital trade and other technological-based measures, have been considered the easiest to negotiate and so their advanced progress is to be expected.

Negotiations regarding thornier agriculture subjects, like market access for agricultural products and regulations on seasonal produce, still lag behind, with no country expressing improved optimism for their expedient resolution. There have also been discussions about attaching enforceable labor standards for Mexico to the agreement; Mexico insists that they are already progressing towards more humane standards and therefore no NAFTA benefits ought to be tethered to additional requirements.

The seventh round of negotiations is set for the end of February in Mexico City. The hosts hope to make substantial progress at this round ahead of their aforementioned presidential election. At least two more rounds are expected after that, but some pessimistic trade analysts are already predicting talks will linger into 2019. No matter how long they last, TGSA will continue to monitor and report developments in the negotiations.

Leadership Sorghum— The Sorghum Checkoff is accepting applications for Leadership Sorghum Class IV, a program designed to develop the next generation of sorghum leaders. Eligible applicants must be farmers actively engaged in sorghum production in the United States. Fifteen growers will be accepted into the program’s fourth class. The application for the program as well as more information is available at LeadSorghum.com. Deadline is 5:00 p.m. on March 16, 2018. 

Applications Available for Young Farmer Grants—The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is now accepting applications for Young Farmer Grant (YFG), a program under the direction of Texas Agricultural Finance Authority (TAFA). The purpose of this program is to provide financial assistance in the form of dollar-for-dollar matching grant funds to individuals between the age of 18 and 46 years old who are engaged or will be engaged in creating or expanding an agricultural business in Texas. Additional details, instructions and the 2018 Round 2 application materials can be found here. Applications are due by the close of business Thursday, March 22, 2018.   

Export Report –Export sales were firm again last week with China and Korea committing to purchase 6.5 million bushels of sorghum. Total commitments now stand at 194 million bushels. Shipments were also strong with China and Mexico taking delivery of 8.6 million bushels. Price stayed strong with Gulf premiums for sorghum at 27 percent. The northern plains was firm, as well.

January 19, 2018

2018 Planting Decisions—The following information was provided by USCP’s Director of Agronomy, Brent Bean. As growers begin to make planting decisions here are some things to think about when considering planting grain sorghum:

  • Sorghum export prices continue to soar. Most recently, based on Market Perspectives Information Report from January 11, 2018, FOB sorghum export bids reflect a 25.6 percent premium above FOB corn export bids. These high sorghum bids continue to show exports remain strong, and prices are encouraging sorghum to be pulled from the interior countryside. 
  • Much of the historical grain sorghum regions of the U.S. are suffering from drought. Unfortunately, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Centeris predicting hotter and drier conditions for much of this region for the next few months. Although sorghum responds positively to good moisture conditions, it has a well deserved reputation as a drought tolerant crop.
  • Sugarcane aphid was much less of a problem in 2017 than in the past. Although it is impossible to predict at this point what 2018 will bring, there are reasons to be optimistic. The planting of more tolerant hybrids, coupled with better management practices that include timely insecticide application are making a significant difference. In addition, beneficial insect populations that prey on the sugarcane aphid are adapting to the presence of the aphid and appeared in increasing numbers in 2017. There is no reason to think that this will not continue in 2018.
  • Sorghum has long been recognized as a good rotation crop for broadleaf crops such as cotton and soybean.  However, sorghum is often not talked about as a rotational crop with corn. Below is a study conducted by Rick Kochenower, when at the Oklahoma State Experiment Station, near Goodwell.  On average, corn yields were 26 bushels higher when following sorghum compared to continuous corn.

  • Under irrigation, grain sorghum makes a good companion crop with other crops where circles are split in half. Planting dates can be manipulated in a way that provides irrigation water during the key development stages of each crop. This has the effect of maximizing water use efficiency for the cropping system.

Campaign Finance Reports Due as March Primary Draws Nearer—Campaign finance reports detailing the fundraising, expenditure, and outstanding loan totals for all candidates seeking public office in Texas and in the Texas congressional delegation were due on Tuesday January 16. Since 2000, these semi-annual reports, designed to increase campaign transparency by documenting the names, occupations, and amounts given for all contributions of greater than $100, are made public as they are filed. You can review the financials of any candidate here by selecting “By Filer Name,” and entering the last name of the candidate.

Some notable financial information made available this week:

  • The Agriculture Commissioner Republican primary between incumbent Sid Miller and Austin-based ethics lobbyist Trey Blocker has been widely considered to be the most contentious of all statewide elections in 2018, and the financial reporting backs up that assessment. Miller raised $106,000 from July to December, while Blocker (who formally announced his candidacy in November) raised $50,000. Each of these candidates have loaned themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars. Blocker reported having a net amount of $487,000 cash on hand, slightly higher than Miller’s $402,000 cash on hand.
  • Incumbents Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick are in much better positions relative to their challengers than Commissioner Miller. Abbott raised $9,000,000 from July to December, bringing his total cash on hand to $43,300,000, the most cash on hand ever reported by a Texas politician. Patrick brought in $2,700,000 in this period for a total of $18,000,000 cash on hand. None of the Governor or Lieutenant Governor’s challengers – in either party – reported raising more than $250,000 in this six month period.
  • Senator Kel Seliger in Senate District 31 (stretching from parts of Midland/Odessa up to Amarillo) reported revenue of $528,000 for a total of $1,700,000 cash on hand. His main challenger, former Midland Mayor Michael Canon, reported raising $107,000 for a total of $170,000. Senator Seliger’s race is notable as he was the only Republican state senator to not endorse Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick after the two frequently clashed over Seliger’s staunch support for public schools in rural Texas.

If you have any questions about the finances or state of upcoming elections, please reach out to Patrick Wade at Patrick@texassorghum.org.

Export Report—Export sales were very strong again last week with China committing to purchase 6.7 million bushels. This brings total commitments for the year to 180 million bushels or 69 percent of the USDA export target. Shipments were also strong as China and Mexico took delivery of 2.1 million bushels. Prices remain strong with central South Dakota sorghum priced at 111 percent of corn, central Kansas sorghum priced at 116 percent of corn and Gulf sorghum for export priced at $4.98 per bushel or 123 percent of corn.

January 8, 2018

Evaluating Best Use Scenarios for Insecticides Targeting Sugarcane Aphid— Based on small plot trials, normal use rates of Transform 1-1.5 oz/ac and Sivanto 4-5 fl-oz/ac continued to provide adequate control of SCA. Low rates, Transform 0.75 oz and Sivanto 2.5 fl-oz (below labelled rate) may have a fit late season near harvest on low SCA populations when lengthy residual control is not necessary. We did not see any benefit from tank mixing either Transform or Sivanto with Lorsban. The new insecticide being developed by BASF, BAS 440I, appears to be a good candidate as an additional product for SCA management. Based on our data, it appears to be slower acting than Transform and Sivanto, and appears most active at rates of 6 fl-oz or more. Residual control from BAS440I appears to be around 21 days; better than Transform but not as long as Sivanto. Because of low SCA numbers we were not able to draw many conclusions regarding the activity of Sivanto applied infurrow at planting. Bioassay data suggests that Sivanto at 4 fl-oz/ac infurrow results in significant SCA mortality at 30 DAP, but very little at 38 DAP. However, we do not think this necessarily reflects inactivity at 38 DAP, but may indicate that the mode of activity may be primarily due to preventing reproduction or killing new born aphids rather than killing adult aphids. Large plot demonstration trials suggest that there is typically not a great deal of difference between the activity of Transform or Sivanto applied via aerial application or by ground, and that standard use rates, Transform at 1 oz/ac or Sivanto at 4 fl-oz/ac will usually suffice. 
Principal investigator: David Kerns; Other Investigators: Katelyn Kesheimer, Blayne Reed, John David Gonzales, Kerry Siders, Xandra Morris, Scott Strawn

Figure 1: Efficacy of Sivanto and Transform at high, normal and low rates on SCA

Figure 2: Efficacy of Sivanto and Transform mixed with Lorsban to SCA

Figure 3: Efficacy of BAS440 relative to varied rates of Sivanto and Transform to SCA

If you would like additional charts or information regarding this study, email katelyn@texassorghum.org

 

EPA Proposes Grain Sorghum Oil Pathway –The Environmental Protection Agency issued a Proposed Rule in the Federal Register today on the life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with biofuels that are produced from grain sorghum oil extracted at dry-mill ethanol plants.

EPA is seeking comment for 30 days on its proposed assessment that using distillers sorghum oil as a feedstock results in no significant agricultural sector GHG emissions. Through EPA analysis, biodiesel produced from distillers sorghum meets the lifecycle GHG emissions reduction threshold of 50 percent required for advanced biofuels, and biomass-based diesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard program.

“After almost four years of work by National Sorghum Producers industry partners and staff, we are excited to see this proposed rule in the Federal Register, putting us one step closer to sorghum oil filling biodiesel production needs,” said John Duff, NSP Strategic Business Director. “This is significant positive news for sorghum producers and ethanol plants in the Sorghum Belt as it provides more opportunities and better returns producing ethanol from sorghum.”

The proposed rule is a result of a petition filed by NSP and extensive work with the EPA providing data and analysis during the rule making process. A pathway approval will allow the production of biodiesel and heating oil from distillers sorghum oil, and renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) produced from distillers sorghum oil.

“This news is much anticipated, and we sincerely appreciate the help of our renewable energy partners, ethanol plants and producer leaders,” NSP CEO Tim Lust said. “We are also grateful for all the congressional leaders who signed a supporting letter and Senator Jerry Moran, Congressman Roger Marshall and Congressman Jodey Arrington who made calls to the EPA supporting the pathway, as well.”

For more information click here.


FSA State Committee Appointees Announced—
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a slate of FSA State Committee Appointees. State committees are selected by the Secretary, serve at the pleasure of the Secretary, and are responsible for carrying out FSA’s farm programs within delegated authorities.

The appointees from Texas are below, to view members from each state, click here.

  • Committee Chair Jerry Harris – Dawson/Gaines County
  • Juan Garcia – Willacy County
  • Rodney Schronk – Hillsboro
  • Michael Skalicky – Ganado
  • Linda G. Williams – Dumas

 
2018 District 11 Texas Crop and Livestock Budgets— 2018 budgets from Texas AgriLife are available here.


MidTex Farm, Ranch and Garden Show–
Visit us in Waco this week! 

December 18, 2017

Filing Deadline Passes for Texas Candidates—Evening on Monday, December 11 marked the end of the one month period in which candidates for Texas offices – from statewide elected officials to state lawmakers to congressional members – must formally file the paperwork to be on the ballot in the 2018 elections. Controversies over elected officials’ misconduct and a staunchly partisan political environment resulted in a large number of candidates pursuing offices across the state and in Washington.

The Democratic Party is running candidates for all 36 Texas congressional seats, 14 of the 15 state Senate seats, and 133 of the 150 state House seats, as well as ten candidates in the Democratic primary for Governor. Across the statewide races, some late noteworthy additions were:

  • Former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson announced he would be challenging George P. Bush for his old office
  • 2014 Texas Agriculture Commissioner Democratic nominee Jim Hogan announced he would be joining Austin-based lobbyist Trey Blocker in a Republican primary challenge to incumbent Sid Miller

Only two Texas statewide officials, Comptroller Glenn Hegar and Attorney General Ken Paxton, did not draw any primary opponents.

Although it is difficult for most of these Democratic challengers to win statewide elections, many of the Republican primaries are expected to be contentious. One race that is particularly important will be the 27th Congressional District, now that incumbent Blake Farenthold announced he would no longer seek reelection following a series of sexual harassment accusations. Former Texas Water Development Board Chairman Bech Bruun is the most notable challenger in what is shaping up to be a crowded Republican primary race for the seat.  

Below is a link to a spreadsheet compiled by Texas Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek that documents every seat (state and congressional) and the candidates who formally filed to run for them. If you are interested or involved in races in your area, or have questions about the races that TGSA is monitoring closest, please reach out to Patrick Wade at Patrick@texassorghum.org.

2018 Candidates – Filed

Dicamba Update—Dicamba tolerant cotton and soybean varieties were brought to the market in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and were followed in 2017 by the newly registered dicamba herbicides formulated specifically to have lower volatility.  Following a challenging launch in 2017 of these newly registered herbicides in some states, the EPA worked with companies registering the new dicamba formulations to make revisions to those product labels in an effort to reduce incidence of off-target movement during application.  In mid-October, revised labels for XtendiMax® with VaporGrip® Technology, Fexapan Plus VaporGrip® Technology, and Engenia® herbicide were approved and released by the EPA and the corresponding companies, Monsanto, DuPont and BASF, respectively.

Notable revisions include the addition of new restrictions as well as clarifications to previous label language.  New restrictions include the following:

  1. Classification of these three products as Restricted Use Pesticides
  2. Required record keeping of all applications for 2 years
  3. Annual mandatory auxin-specific training for every person that will be applying the product to any crop.

While restricted use classification and record keeping are currently in effect for these products in Texas, the mandatory auxin-specific training for all applicators is a new change that applies to not only those with an applicators license but also to those making applications under someone else’s license.  This requires awareness for all applicators to ensure their ability to use these herbicides in 2018 and in subsequent years.

Clarifications to label language include but are not limited to what qualifies as a “susceptible” or “sensitive” crop, requiring the use of downwind buffers, clarification around temperature inversions and restricting the application time to only include sunrise to sunset, tightening the windspeed window from 3-15mph down to 3-10mph, and amplifying the language on sprayer cleanout to prevent cross-contamination.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has approved the auxin-specific herbicide training for applicators that will be provided through Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Allied Industry. This training aims to educate applicators on the requirements and practices for keeping these dicamba based products on-target and will satisfy the newly mandated auxin-specific training requirement.

Trainings started the first week of December and will be delivered in various 2017/2018 winter meetings and via video presentation(s) by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, BASF, and Monsanto.  The specific times and locations of these training opportunities will be announced over the next months.  Please contact your local County Extension Office for available training in your area. This article first appeared in Texas Row Crop Newsletter

Charles Ray Huddleston Sworn in as USCP Board Member—Five Sorghum Checkoff board directors were sworn in during the December 13, 2017, board meeting in Lubbock, Texas.

Returning to the board are Verity Ulibarri of McAlister, New Mexico, and Carlton Bridgeforth of Tanner, Alabama. Newly appointed to the board are Klint G. Stewart, of Columbus, Nebraska; Shayne C. Suppes of Scott City, Kansas; and Charles Ray Huddleston of Celina, Texas.

The newly sworn in board members were appointed by the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in December and will serve a three-year term.

“We are pleased to welcome both the new and returning directors to the Sorghum Checkoff,” said Sorghum Checkoff Executive Director Florentino Lopez. “The board of directors are crucial in our efforts to create producer profitability, expand market opportunities and increase demand for sorghum, and we look forward to working with the appointed board of directors in creating success for our farmers.”

Ag Census In Progress –The USDA Census of Agriculture conducts a comprehensive analysis of all U.S. farms and ranches every five years. The 2017 census is an opportunity for producers, researchers, policy makers and others to have consistent, impartial information that impacts the future of agriculture. Important trends that shape farm programs and other agricultural developments are justified by the census data. As Congress creates the 2018 Farm Bill the upcoming census data will provide insight to the changes in the U.S. farm economy. The USDA began sending surveys earlier this month and expects to collect responses by Feb. 5. Read more about the 2017 Census of Agriculture here

Export Report—Export sales were very strong again last week with China and South Korea committing to purchase 12.5 million bushels. These commitments bring total sales to 141 million bushels or 54 percent of the new USDA export target (in the latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, USDA raised this target to 260 million bushels from 210 million bushels). Shipments were also strong with China, Mexico and South Korea taking delivery of 4.0 million bushels. Total shipments now stand at 52.7 million bushels. Basis remained strong with Gulf bids at 121 percent of corn or $4.84 per bushel. Interior basis continues to firm as well, and central Kansas terminal bids (March delivery) stand at 111 percent of corn or $3.28 per bushel.

Merry Christmas 
Texas Sorghum staff wishes you and yours a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year! We are grateful for the producers, colleagues and members we are able to call friends!

December 1, 2017

Senator Cornyn Holds NAFTA Hearing with Industry Leaders—On Monday November 20, Senator John Cornyn convened a hearing of the Senate Finance committee in San Antonio to provide industry leaders the opportunity to address their respective concerns about the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The hearing was attended by Senator Cornyn, General Counsel for the United States Trade Representative Stephen Vaughn, Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening, Texas Oil & Gas Association President (and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner) Todd Staples, and other representatives from the automobile and business industries.

Senator Cornyn opened the hearing by expressing his belief that NAFTA has fundamentally worked for Texas and that the operative consideration for American negotiators ought to be “do no harm.” Then, after a brief opening statement by Mr. Vaughn, Senator Cornyn and the General Counsel took part in an extended question and answer series in which the Senator asked tough, and often vaguely answered, questions of Mr. Vaughn. Mr. Vaughn reassured the Senator and those in attendance that the administration still had the nation’s best interests at heart in the renegotiation process, but trade deficits with Canada and especially Mexico were symptomatic of market distortions that must be remedied.

Mr. Vaughn explained the blistering pace of these negotiations – with less time between negotiating rounds than any trade deal in recent history – as part of the administration’s commitment to “resolve uncertainty.” He then, however, went on to justify a proposed five-year sunset on NAFTA – a potential source of extreme uncertainty – as nothing more than a normal “performance evaluation.”

Mr. Boening delivered testimony on behalf of Texas Farm Bureau, articulating the success NAFTA has had in establishing consistent foreign markets for Texas food and fiber. Agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico under NAFTA have quadrupled, from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38 billion today. Mr. Boening also spoke to the current state of the farm economy, suggesting that this would be a particularly damaging time to withdraw from two of our top three foreign markets for agricultural products.

As NAFTA negotiations continue through the rest of 2017, TGSA will keep you up-to-date on developments as well as provide you with opportunities to offer your opinions. If you would like to discuss this issue more, please contact Patrick Wade at Patrick@texassorghum.org.

Scholarship deadline TODAY—Applications for the National Sorghum Foundation-BASF Joint Scholarship closes toady. The scholarship will include a tuition award for the 2018-2019 school year as well as cover recipients’ cost to attend the 2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California. Applicants must be pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in an agriculturally related curriculum. Students must be a child or grandchild of an NSP member, and undergraduates must be entering at least their second year of study by the 2018-2019 academic year. 

Click here to download the application. For questions or to submit application materials, please contact Debra Lloyd at debral@sorghumgrowers.com or 806-749-3478.

TDA Policy Regarding New Dicamba Labeling—In response to EPA mandated label amendments requiring all applicators to complete dicamba or auxin-specific training prior to application of these products, TDA is providing its Texas specific policy regarding applicator training requirements. Interested parties should note that the aforementioned products are now federally Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP), in addition to the State Limited Use Pesticide designation under Texas Law.

TDA regulations do not require auxin or dicamba specific training. However, in order to satisfy the training requirements established by the new EPA mandated label requirements, TDA will acknowledge approved training provided by either: 1) Texas A&M AgriLIfe Extension Service or, 2) a registrant for the product approved for in-crop use on the dicamba-tolerant or auxin-tolerant crop.

The training must be approved by TDA and meet the following course content requirements:

  1. Application Timing
  2. Nozzle Requirements/Selection
  3. Wind Speed
  4. Ground Speed
  5. Boom Height
  6. Tank Cleanout
  7. Sensitive Crops and Buffer Zones
  8. Weather Conditions
  9. Drift, Volatility and Inversion
  10. Other Labeling Restrictions

The training must be a minimum of 50 minutes in length. Licensed applicators will be awarded 1 CEU in Laws and Regulations upon verified completion of the TDA approved training course. Applicators that are working under the supervision of a licensed applicator will not be given CEU credit for attending the training. Each participant who completes the training must be given a certificate of completing which must be retained by the participant in the participant’s records for two years. Course providers must follow the procedures set fourth in the Texas Pesticide Recertification Course Accreditation Guide. The training must be attended once every year. For more information click here or here.

EPA proposes 2-year delay of 2015 WOTUS rule.  The EPA and Corps of Engineers have proposed a rule that would delay implementation of the 2015 WOTUS rule for two years.  Currently, the 2015 rule is stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the EPA is currently working through the required process to rescind the 2015 rule altogether.  Why, then, does the EPA want a 2-year delay?  They say they want to provide certainty to landowners that the 2015 rule will not go into effect if, for example, the 6th Circuit stay is lifted.  Of course, this proposal will have to undergo a comment period before it can be published in the Federal Register.  Meanwhile, the two-step rulemaking process to rescind and replace the 2015 rule altogether will continue.  [Read article here.] This article first appeared in Texas Ag Law

Export Report— SorghumNet sales of 328,000 MT for 2017/2018–marketing-year high–were up 2 percent from the previous week and 26 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases were reported for China (262,000 MT, including decreases of 3,000 MT) and unknown destinations (66,000 MT). Exports of 217,100 MT–a marketing-year high–were up noticeably from the previous week and from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (204,900 MT), Japan (10,500 MT), and Mexico (1,700 MT).

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