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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:
- General info about SCA and scouting cards can be found here
- YouTube video tutorials are available
- A blog ran by AgriLife with the most up-to-date info as it happens in the field can be found here
- More info can also be found here
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.
Legislative Update—Governor Abbott recently announced that he had vetoed 50 pieces of legislation that passed the Senate and the House. He also cut $120 million from the budget through line item vetoes. Among the programs nixed in the budget was $2.5 million for the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board to conduct water supply enhancement. According to a TSWCB spokesperson, there may still be enough money to move around to cover this, but it is still a significant loss. Among the 50 bills that Governor Abbott vetoed, there were some that affected agriculture. Most prominently, HB 572 was vetoed after receiving broad support across the agriculture industry. HB 572 was the bill that used pesticide registration fees to fund a pesticide container disposal program in conjunction with Texas A&M AgriLife. I have yet to receive a clear answer as to why the bill was vetoed, although concerns about the source of funding seem to be swirling around. You can read a list of the other 49 bills the Governor vetoed here.
EPA will rescind 2015 Waters of the United States (“WOTUS”) rule—On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would be taking the first step to rescind the definition of WOTUS as published in the Federal Register in 2015 and to re-codify the definition of WOTUS “which currently governs administration of the Clean Water Act.” Essentially, it appears that the EPA intends to codify the approach taken prior to the WOTUS rule being passed. Of course, as many remember, there was a great deal of uncertainty prior to the 2015 WOTUS Rule, leading to significant litigation. The EPA has released its “pre-publication version” of the proposed rule defining Waters of the United Sates, which will be published in the Federal Register soon. [Read pre-publication version here.] After publication, there will be a 30 day notice period for interested parties to submit comments about the new proposed rule. [Read article here.] I’ll have a more detailed analysis of the new version of the rule upon its publication in the Federal Register. This story first appeared in Texas Agriculture Law
China Trade Team Stops in Texas—A team of 12 Chinese grain buyers visited the Sorghum Belt last week to further develop and strengthen the relationships between Chinese sorghum buyers and U.S. suppliers. The team is composed of top leading sorghum professionals whose imports account for more than 50 percent of China’s total sorghum imports from the U.S. The team made stops in south Texas where they were able to tour elevators and meet with sorghum producers. During their week-long stay in the U.S. the team also visited ethanol plants, feed mills and attended training seminars at universities. These visits will result in a better understanding of crop conditions and quality, sorghum use in the U.S. feed industry and enable them to gain a better understanding of grain sorghum as a valuable feed ingredient.
Market Perspectives–Sorghum: Net sales of 2,000 MT for 2016/2017 were reported for China. Exports of 74,800 MT were up 17 percent from the previous week and 9 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (62,000 MT), Japan (8,800 MT), and Mexico (4,000 MT).
Governor Abbott Calls for Special Legislative Session—On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Abbott declared that he would be exercising his constitutional power to call state lawmakers back into Austin to address business unfinished during the 140 days of the recently concluded 85th Regular Session. After considerable speculation as to what subjects the Governor would direct lawmakers to address, he rolled out a list of twenty items that ranged across a variety of issues. First and foremost, the Governor has demanded that a bill come to his desk that authorizes the continued operation of key state agencies, most prominently the Texas Medical Board. Without this authorization, the state would lose its ability to certify new physicians. Although this is an important issue, it is not unprecedented in Texas history. Less than a decade ago, lawmakers returned for a special session after they failed to reauthorize other state boards in the regular session. Once – and only once – the House and Senate pass the agency authorizations, the Governor has directed that they move to address nineteen other policies:
- A teacher pay raise of $1,000
- Giving school administrators flexibility in teacher hiring and retention
- School finance reform
- School choice for special-needs students
- Rollback elections for property tax increases
- Caps on state and local spending
- Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land
- Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects
- Speeding up local government permitting processes
- Municipal annexation reform
- Preventing local entities from passing their own texting-while-driving bans
- Restrictions on bathroom use for transgender Texans
- Prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues
- Prohibiting the use of taxpayer funding to subsidize health providers that also perform abortion
- Requiring women to get separate insurance policies to cover non-emergency abortions
- Increasing existing reporting requirements when complications arise during abortions
- Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders
- Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
- Extending the state’s maternal mortality task force
Although the Governor has established this list of issues, it is up to the representatives and senators to write and negotiate the actual policies. The special session will last for 30 days, at which point the Governor will evaluate whether lawmakers have adequately addressed these twenty issues. The Governor has the authority to continue to call for as many additional special sessions as he desires. Of the twenty items proposed on Tuesday, none are explicitly tailored to address agriculture issues. Nonetheless, TGSA will remain in Austin throughout the duration of proceedings to ensure that the scope of this special session remains limited to the items proposed.
Farm Bill Rules Not Subject to Two-for-One Executive Order—When the 2018 Farm Bill is written, it will not be subject to President Trump’s executive order mandating that for every new regulation created, two others must be repealed. According to Rebeckah Adcock, senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, statutory regulations generally will not be subject to the offset. Read more about the impact of the executive order on the next farm bill here.
Export Report—Sorghum exports fluctuated this week due to tight inventory remaining from the previous year’s crop with China, Japan, and Mexico committing to purchase 2 million bushels. This brings the total commitments for the year to 169 million bushels or 78 percent of the USDA export target. Exports are still ahead of the 5 year average pace and very similar to last year’s pace. Deliveries remained strong with shipments to China, Japan, and Mexico totaling 3.02 million bushels. Prices on the Gulf Coast were stable for July delivery at 113 percent of corn prices or $4.63. Cash price bids in the interior remained steady.
Clock Ticking in Austin for Priority Legislation—With just ten days until the Texas Legislature reaches the conclusion of its 85th regular session, questions still remain about the prognosis of major initiatives. At the beginning of the session in January, Governor Greg Abbott laid out four priorities:
- Reform Child Protective Services to be more responsive and thorough in protecting foster children
- Eliminate “Sanctuary Cities”
- Ethics reform to target legislators who transition to lobbying or whose private occupation contracts with public entities
- Form a Convention of States to rewrite the U.S. Constitution
As of today, only one of those priorities has passed through both chambers and made its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. Two weeks ago, Governor Abbott signed SB 4, the “Sanctuary Cities” bill, on a Facebook livestream event. He did so alone, skewing the tradition of inviting the legislators who were instrumental in the bill’s passage. Conspicuously absent was Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who also identified eliminating “Sanctuary Cities” as one of his many priorities for this session.
Despite his absence at the signing ceremony, Lt. Gov. Patrick’s agenda may dictate the proceedings of these last ten days. Although the Legislature is only constitutionally obligated to pass a biennial budget and authorize the continuation of state agencies, Lt. Gov. Patrick declared he will block passage of state agency authorization unless the House passes two of his priority bills. The first, and most prominent, of these two bills is the “bathroom bill,” which seeks to force transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate. The bill has been widely panned by the business community and moderate Republicans, but the Lt. Gov. continues to assert that it is the single most important issue facing Texans today. The second of the Lt. Gov.’s priorities is to limit the ability of local governments to raise property taxes. Presently, a local government cannot raise taxes by greater than 8% lest they trigger an automatic tax ratification election. The bill, as the Senate wrote it, seeks to reduce that rate to 4%.
If the House does not pass these two measures, Lt. Gov. Patrick has promised that he will refuse to pass the state agency authorization and force Gov. Abbott to call for a special session over the summer. Today, Friday May 19, the House will be debating the property tax bill. The House let the “bathroom bill” die earlier this month, but there may still be avenues for legislators to attach the policy as an amendment to another bill. By this time next week, we will likely know whether the Legislature will adjourn for good on May 29 or merely be taking a short break before returning for a special session.
New WOTUS Website Now Available—Following last week’s news on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s efforts to reach out to state governors for their feedback regarding the Waters of the U.S. rule, the EPA has launched a new website to keep people informed about progress of the WOTUS rulemaking process. The former site developed for the 2015 rulemaking process will still be available through EPA’s archived site, archive.epa.gov.
Export Report—Exports were very strong this week with China, Japan and Mexico committing to purchase 2.2 million bushels. This brings total commitments for the year to 177 million bushels or 79 percent of the USDA export target (including food aid donations). Exports are still ahead of the 5-year average pace needed to meet this target and are back on pace with last year. Deliveries were also strong, with shipments to China, Japan and Mexico totaling 3.3 million bushels. Prices on the Gulf Coast remained strong on these shipments with sorghum bids for July delivery jumping to 115 percent of corn or $4.61 per bushel in New Orleans. Interior bids remained weak, but river bids continued to move higher. Producers in areas affected by flooding should strongly consider taking advantage of these basis opportunities.
Legislative Update— Last Monday night, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs heard public testimony on SB 1392, a bill authored by committee chairman Charles Perry (R-Lubbock). SB 1392 is the end result of the previous legislature’s interim charge for the committee to research existing groundwater management policies in the face of a diminishing water supply.
From a big picture perspective, SB 1392 seeks to foster greater cooperation between groundwater conservation districts – the state designated rulemaking authority on groundwater since 1949 – by permitting districts that share a subdivision of a groundwater reservoir to jointly create desired future conditions. At the hearing, Chairman Perry spoke to the need for standardization across districts, particularly in cases where districts may not be implementing the soundest scientific methodology. With recent Texas Supreme Court decisions regarding water rights on the Chairman’s mind, and more pending litigation on the horizon, one can understand his desire to establish a more uniform rulemaking process.
From a closer perspective, however, the bill appears to create numerous vague and cryptic policies that, despite Chairman Perry’s intent, may inevitably result in further litigation. One of the most prevalent questions asked by the forty-plus witnesses on Monday night was how the committee understood “similar rules” to be defined when requiring neighboring districts to “work jointly with other groundwater conservation districts through similar rules…” The chairman and the rest of the committee were unable to define when and how a rule would be deemed similar enough to be acceptable under this law.
There were a variety of testimonies heard by the committee on Monday, and not all were opposed to the bill. Many managers from groundwater conservation districts across the state testified as neutral on the bill, providing expert insight as to how they would interpret the potential new law. A number of these managers questioned the need for the bill in the first place, suggesting that they’ve witnessed districts cooperating and attempting to establish more similar rules already. Almost as many witnesses testified that they had intended to oppose the bill, but upon reading the revised committee substitute, their position had changed to neutral. In almost every case, this was because the original filed version had stripped “historic use” of land as being an acceptable factor when considering water permits. An amendment was adopted before the hearing began, however, to reintroduce “historic use” as an acceptable factor.
In fact, the rollout of the bill and its substitute and amendments resulted in additional apprehension about its merit. After receiving criticism for the language in the original filed version of the bill, the committee worked with stakeholders to draft a committee substitute. That substitute, however, was not completed and distributed to stakeholders until the night before the hearing. Along with leaving a bad taste in many stakeholders’ mouths, the timing made it difficult for interested parties to conduct a thorough analysis of the substitute in time to provide adequate testimony.
TGSA did not register a position for or against SB 1392, nor did we testify as neutral. We share the same reservations that many other commodity groups have expressed about such a massive reform being conducted in such vague and hurried terms, but we wanted to hear the debate play out in the committee hearing before we committed to opposition. After hearing the thoughtful discussion between committee members and stakeholders, we believe it is in the best interest of Texas sorghum producers to oppose this legislation. We believe Chairman Perry’s intentions are noble and his concerns about the future of water availability are valid, but in its current form this bill is likely to create more confusion that would need to be interpreted in the courts. Since we cannot know how the bill will be interpreted until then, and since the current groundwater conservation district model is working for sorghum producers now, we cannot support SB 1392 in any of its forms so far.
Farm Groups Settle Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit with EPA—An ongoing lawsuit regarding whether the EPA may release personal information about farmers, such as family names, phone numbers, GPS coordinates, etc., has been settled. Newly-appointed EPA Secretary, Scott Pruitt signed an agreement with plaintiffs including the American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers Council to avoid further litigation. Under the agreement, the EPA agrees that when producing certain records, it will redact this type of personal information, which is exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. EPA will also train its employees on this exemption. This story first ran in Texas Ag Law
Export Report—Export sales commitments were strong again this week with China purchasing 1.8 million bushels. This brings total commitments to 161 million bushels or 71.5 percent of the USDA target for the year. Deliveries were also very strong with China, Japan and Mexico taking delivery of 5.4 million bushels. Both commitments and deliveries are ahead of the 5-year average pace needed to meet the USDA target. Basis continued to be firm on the Mississippi River and the northern plains, but continued to lag in central terminal markets. Gulf Coast basis also remained strong, and there were reports of interest in the timing of harvest from buyers. This indicates the existence of export pull.
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).
TERP Explained—This Texas legislative session, a bill was filed in the Senate that challenges the role of ethanol in state-owned vehicles. The bill seeks to achieve this by modifying the Texas Emissions Reduction Program, known as TERP. As TGSA pushes back on this attempt to hinder the state’s ethanol industry, we thought it would be valuable to explain what TERP is and how it operates.
TERP was founded by the Texas Legislature in 2001 with the intent of establishing programs to provide financial incentives towards reducing polluting emissions from vehicles and equipment. TERP is contained within the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and derives its funding from a variety of sources:
- Contributions from firms in nonattainment areas (meaning areas that fail to meet federal Clean Air Act standards)
- Surcharges on equipment rentals and purchases
- Surcharges on large-sized diesel vehicle rentals and purchases
- Fees on car title purchases
- Surcharges on truck-tractor rentals and purchases
- Vehicle inspection fees
- Recapture on provided grants
These funds are dedicated to a wide range of programs designed to improve air quality in nonattainment areas by targeting the reduction of nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, or volatile organic compounds. For example, one of TERP’s first major forays was to provide grant money to offset the costs of retrofitting diesels to reduce emissions. Other projects that qualify for TERP assistance include, but are not limited to:
- Clean school bus programs
- Regional air monitoring systems
- Drayage truck incentive program
- Clean fleet program
- Alternative fueling stations
TERP also provides financial assistance for entities that purchase vehicles that are compatible with alternative fuels (biodiesel, natural gas, electricity, and – most pertinent to sorghum producers – ethanol). This has, in part, encouraged the state to predominately purchase ethanol-compatible vehicles and has helped grow the demand for ethanol in nonattainment areas. The legislation introduced this session that challenges ethanol’s role in reducing emissions seeks to do so by mandating that all qualifying state agencies replace their fleet with vehicles that use any kind of alternative fuel that is not ethanol. This “mandatory replacement” section is contained in a larger bill that broadly restructures the funding mechanisms for TERP. The alternative fuels section of TERP was up for review in 2017 regardless, but the mandatory nature of the replacement and the singling out of ethanol are cause for concern across the agriculture industry. TGSA will continue to keep you up-to-date on how you can help preserve the ethanol industry and push for better environmental policies.
Inzen Sorghum Update—Currently, it looks like the earliest Pioneer or Advanta will have Inzen sorghum seed commercially available will be 2019, and it is possible that it could be 2020. Dupont Crop Protection will be testing the technology with universities again in 2017. Most of the seed used in these trials will be provided by Advanta, but there will be a limited supply of Pioneer seed for use in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. There are two Advanta hybrids that will be used in these trials. Both are different from the hybrid used in 2016 trials. There are three Pioneer hybrids that will be tested depending on the location, with many more hybrids in the pipeline to be tested in future years. It is anticipated that it will still be several months before Canada gives plant novel trait (PNT) approval for Inzen sorghum. For this reason, any grain harvested MUST NOT be allowed into the grain export market. Similar to last year, Dupont will be giving investigators instructions on what to do with any harvested grain.
SCA Management Tips— The table below lists those sorghum hybrids that have been identified over the last two years that have tolerance to sugarcane aphid based on university and other independent trials. All of the hybrids listed are being marketed by their respective seed companies as sugarcane aphid tolerant. This is not a complete list and companies may be promoting additional hybrids as sugarcane aphid tolerant. Only those hybrids that have been identified as tolerant by a third party have been included here. Click here to see the entire list on USCP’s website. Research has shown that sugarcane aphids reproduce slower on tolerant hybrids and in some cases are able to withstand a higher sugarcane aphid population without a reduction in yield compared to susceptible hybrids. Tolerant hybrids have been shown to delay when sugarcane aphids may reach the economic threshold. Growers, however, should scout and apply and insecticide to tolerant hybrids if and when the economic threshold is reached. In some cases multiple applications of insecticide may be necessary. The Sorghum Checkoff also recently released eight videos on SCA management. The video series discusses topics such as sugarcane aphid biology, tolerant versus susceptible hybrids, insecticide rates and applications, control with other pests, late season control, integrated pest management and pre-planting decisions. Click here to watch any of the informational videos.
Filing Open Space or Agricultural Use Valuation Application—The deadline for filing open space, ag use, and wildlife management valuation applications is May 1. The Chief Appraiser may, for good cause, extend this deadline by up to 60 days, but obviously the more prudent route is to be sure and file applications by the May 1 deadline. [For more background on the differences between and requirements for open space, agricultural use, and wildlife management use valuation, click here.] This applies to landowners in several situations. First, if your property is qualified under “agricultural use” rather than “open space,” a yearly application must be filed by May 1. (Most land in TX now qualifies under the “open space” standard rather than the traditional “ag use” standard.) Second, if a landowner wishes to have his property qualified for open space valuation and it has not previously been considered as such, the one-time application must be filed by May 1. Third, if a landowner wishes to change the land from open space use to wildlife management use, he or she must notify the Chief appraiser of this desired change by May 1. Finally, a landowner who purchased property in the last year that previously had the open space valuation exemption is required to file a new application by May 1. For example, say Bill purchased ranch land in Texas in August 2016. The land has been used for cattle ranching for decades and has always been valued as open space land for property tax purposes since the prior owners filed their application years ago. If Bill wants to continue to have his taxes determined based upon the open space valuation approach, Bill will have to file an application with his County Appraisal District by May 1 this year. If he fails to do so, he will likely not receive the open space valuation appraisal and, instead, will pay taxes based on the fair market value of his land. This will almost always result in a significant tax increase. Recently, Braun & Gresham law firm published a great list of questions to ask when purchasing land in Texas. This story first ran in Texas Ag Law
Market Perspectives— Sorghum: Net sales of 16,000 MT for 2016/2017 were down 86 percent from the previous week and 82 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases were for China (53,300 MT, including 51,300 MT switched from unknown destinations), Japan (13,300 MT, including 3,000 MT switched from unknown destinations and decreases of 900 MT), and Mexico (5,100 MT). Reductions were reported for unknown destinations (55,700 MT). Exports of 133,400 MT were up noticeably from the previous week and up 10 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (103,300 MT), Japan (28,400 MT), and Mexico (1,700 MT).
This Week in the Legislature—This week, the House Committee on Natural Resources met for the first time to discuss committee rules and hear general testimony from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Water Development Board. The rest of this week’s hearings in the House were primarily budget-related in nature. The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development also met to discuss committee rules and hear general testimony from state agencies, but also to hear testimony on SB 26. SB 26 is a bill that reforms funding mechanisms for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP), but also has language that may compromise elements of the ethanol industry in Texas. Earlier in the week, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs met for the first time to discuss committee rules and to discuss veterinary care in rural Texas now that the Texas Tech vet school plan has been halted. The legislature is now just a week away from being able to hold hearings for bills that were not designated as emergency items by leadership, so expect a significant uptick in committee activity in both the House and the Senate moving forward.
New Advancements in Sorghum Breeding Technology—A three-year research collaboration effort between the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and DuPont Pioneer has yielded a major new tool for sorghum improvement. DuPont Pioneer research scientists, led by Cleve Franks and Tanveer Hussain, discovered two sorghum haploid inducer lines. The first of its kind, these patent-pending inducer lines enable the creation of doubled haploid sorghum, which is the first step to significantly accelerating the sorghum breeding process. The United Sorghum Checkoff Program funded the Pioneer research as part of a three-year, $800,220 investment. The research, conducted in Texas, Kansas, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Iowa, leveraged the world-class, global breeding programs of Pioneer. The results and developments from the collaboration will be available for out licensing.
Demonstrating Grain Sorghum Potential in Texas: Using Best Management Practices to Maximize Yield and Economic Return—Grain sorghum yields overall in Texas have not increased much since the 1970’s. Yet, statewide data does not accurately describe sorghum potential in Texas. Using actual yield measurements from AgriLife trials, yield trends have increased in some regions but has not been equal across the state. Large yield increases (1.6 bu/acre/yr) have been observed in the High Plains region under irrigation while other regions have had little if any increase in yield. National Sorghum Yield Contest and other yield reports from regions with lower yield trends suggest that much greater yield potential does exist. Greater than 200 bu/acre was obtained in central Texas during 2014 while many growers are content with less than 100 bu/acre. Research/demonstration plots were established within three major sorghum production regions of Texas to compare production systems with varying yield goals and inputs. Best management practices were used to ensure adequate weed, insect and disease control. Increasing nitrogen fertilizer rates were used to determine optimum yield potential. Environmental conditions were a major constraint for grain yield during 2016 across all three regions. Excessive rainfall reduced tiller production and limited grain yield. Furthermore, residual soil nitrogen (N) at all sites reduced N fertilizer response and lowered economic return for added N fertilizer. Ultimately, unusual weather conditions limited yield potential precluding the demonstration of true sorghum yield potential. Principal Investigator: Ronnie Schnell, Other Investigators: T. Provin, J. Mowrer
Market Perspectives–Sorghum: Net sales of 16,200 MT for 2016/2017 were down 81 percent from the previous week and 78 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases were for China (51,700 MT, including decreases of 1,300 MT), the Republic of South Africa (49,500 MT, including 42,500 MT switched from unknown destinations), Japan (10,000 MT), and Taiwan (500 MT). Reductions were reported for unknown destinations (95,500 MT). Exports of 102,800 MT were down 42 percent from the previous week and 30 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (51,700 MT), the Republic of South Africa (49,500 MT), Indonesia (900 MT), and Mexico (600 MT).
TGSA Annual Meeting Brings Industry Together— More than 60 representatives of the sorghum industry met in Austin the second week of February for a joint annual meeting of TGSA and Texas Seed Trade Association (TSTA). The 85th Legislative Session provided an ideal backdrop for producers and industry representatives to converge in Austin. The meeting began with keynote speaker, Representative Larry Gonzales Chairman of House Committee on Appropriations. The following morning approximately 30 TGSA board & delegate body members met with more than 20 elected officials and staff members to discuss ag issues and concerns as the new session begins. This was TGSA’s second annual meeting since completing a restructure process last year. For more information about TGSA’s restructure, governance or membership, contact Patrick Wade, Patrick@texassorghum.org.
When to Trigger a Second Application for Sugarcane Aphid—Research at Lubbock, Halfway and Bushland examined the yield loss that would be caused by sugarcane aphids if the first control attempt failed or could not be implemented. Yield loss in susceptible sorghum was 2,900 to 4,000 lbs./acre, while yield loss in a resistant hybrid grown with more irrigation was 1,230 lbs. A leaf damage rating scale was developed, and data suggest that the top 50 – 60% of the canopy must be protected in order to avoid excessive yield loss. Given the rapid population increase potential of the sugarcane aphid, we recommend applying insecticide no later than when the bottom 20% of leaves are damaged and active aphid colonies are present. Principal Investigator: Pat Porter, Extension Entomologist Other Investigator(s):Blayne Reed, Kerry Siders, Tommy Doederlein and Katelyn Kesheimer, Extension Agents IPM Cooperator: Ed Bynum, Extension Entomologist
USDA to Survey Producers’ Planting Intentions for 2017—Beginning the last week of February, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will begin surveying approximately 84,000 of the nation’s farmers and ranchers to determine their plans for the upcoming growing season. The Southern Plains Regional office will contact approximately 8,000 producers in Oklahoma and Texas, almost 10% of the national total. The Prospective Plantings report is highly anticipated by the agricultural industry, as it provides the first look at planting intentions for the 2017 crop year. In addition, this report will provide the first estimate of harvest acres for winter wheat and oats, as well as grains and oilseeds stored on farm. The March Agricultural Survey gathers the factual data to provide indications for the estimates, and is based on producer response to the survey. Producers may use this report to make marketing decisions for the upcoming growing season, while agri-businesses rely on the data to allocate resources to help better serve the industry. Government agencies, particularly those within USDA, will use the data to help make policy decisions and administer farm programs that effect producers – not only this year, but in years to come as the current 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire in 2018. As with all NASS surveys, the results of this survey will be available in aggregate form only, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified. The Prospective Plantings report and the Quarterly Grain Stocks report will be released on March 31, 2017, and will be available online at http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/
Texas House Agriculture & Livestock Committee Named—Last week, Texas House leadership published committee assignments for the 85th Legislature. The announcement, which came weeks after the Senate assigned committees and began referring them legislation, altered the composition of many influential committees but left the Agriculture committee relatively similar to its membership in the 84th Legislature. Chairman Tracy King of Batesville retained leadership of the committee for the third session. Representative Mary Gonzalez of Clint replaced Representative Doc Anderson as Vice-Chair, though, with Representative Anderson retaining membership on the committee. Representatives Matt Rinaldi (Irving) and John Cyrier (Lockhart) also retained membership on the committee. Two members of the 84th Legislature committee did not retain their spot: David Simpson – following his unsuccessful bid for the Texas Senate – and Representative Drew Springer. They have been replaced by Representative Dustin Burrows of Lubbock and Representative Lynn Stucky of Denton. TGSA’s Delegate Body met with many of the Agriculture committee members during its fly-in to Austin last week, and we look forward to building on those relationships to develop strong agricultural policy this session.
Market Perspectives–Sorghum: Net sales of 134,900 MT for 2016/2017 were up noticeably from the previous week and from the prior 4-week average. Increases were for China (174,500 MT, including 113,000 MT switched from unknown destinations), Japan (13,000 MT, including 3,000 MT switched from unknown destinations and decreases of 100 MT), the Republic of South Africa (9,500 MT, switched from unknown destinations), and Mexico (7,900 MT, including decreases of 4,000 MT). Reductions were reported for unknown destinations (70,000 MT). Exports of 153,000 MT were up noticeably from the previous week and up 40 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (121,600 MT), Japan (18,000 MT), the Republic of South Africa (9,500 MT), and Mexico (3,900 MT). To read the entire Market Perspectives, provided by the US Grains Council, click here.
TGSA Participates in DC Fly-In—This week, sorghum producers from across the country attended the National Sorghum Producers annual fly-in to Washington D.C. TGSA staff Patrick Wade was joined by Texas Sorghum members Brittan Gruhlkey, Kody Carson, Danny Beyer, and Jason Franz, as well as Texans participating in NSP’s Leadership Sorghum program. Texas sorghum producers met with the Texas’s congressional delegation and their staff to discuss agriculture policies and help our lawmakers better understand the reality of farming in 2017. As Congress prepares to write the next Farm Bill, TGSA members took the opportunity to discuss which elements of crop insurance have been beneficial and where the safety net may have some holes. The Farm Bill was far from the only topic of discussion, though. Continued grievances with EPA regulations, concerns over export market instability, and the need for research dollars to combat the sugarcane aphid were amongst many other issues covered over the three days of meetings. All in all, members of the Texas delegation continue to be staunch advocates of Texas agriculture and TGSA is grateful to have representation in D.C. that keeps its doors open to producers. We look forward to continuing the conversations that were started this week as the 115th Congress progresses.
2016 SCA Research Findings—Sugarcane Aphid on Sorghum in South and Central Texas; research by: Michael Brewer, Research Entomologist (Corpus Christi, all sites coordination) (email@example.com); Robert Bowling, Extension Entomologist (Corpus Christi/outreach), Mo Way, Research Entomologist (Beaumont), Allen Knutson, Extension Entomologist (Taylor, Hillsboro/outreach), Levi Russell, Extension Ag. Economics, (outreach), Mac Young, Extension Economics Program Specialist (outreach); Stephen Biles, IPM Agent (Port Lavaca/outreach), John Gordy, Ag. County Agent (Rosenberg/outreach)
Commercial hybrids vary in response to aphids and aphid abundance varies as well. Our two questions addressed were 1) whether ‘R’ (referred to as either tolerant or partially resistant) hybrids were verified under season-long growing conditions and exposure to sugarcane aphid experienced in Texas, and 2) whether adjusting thresholds upward for the ‘R’ hybrids is appropriate (that is, they yield better than susceptible ‘S’ hybrid comparators when exposed to natural populations of sugarcane aphid but the ‘R’ hybrid still needs to be protected at some higher sugarcane aphid pressure that may occur in Texas)? At three locations (Corpus Christi, Rosenberg, and Gainesville), resistance in five sorghum hybrids designated by seed companies as “highly tolerant” to sugarcane aphid (SCA) was compared. Suspected ‘R’ (partially resistant) sorghum entries included SP7715 (Sorghum Partners), BH4100 (B&H Genetics), and DKS37-07 and DKS48-07 (Monsanto). Two SCA susceptible hybrids, DKS38-88 and DKS53-67 (Monsanto), also were included in this trial. All hybrids had Concep III (Syngenta) and fungicide seed treatments. To obtain a range of aphid pressure, Sivanto (4 oz/ac) was sprayed by ground rig when aphids reached 50, 125, 300 SCA per leaf. One additional treatment of an unsprayed control allowed aphids to increase naturally. The spray and hybrid treatment combinations were replicated four times. Measurements included weekly aphid counts on 20 leaves total (10 top and 10 bottom leaves). Leaf injury was taken weekly and yield was taken. The peak aphid load was compared across hybrids and a yield—maximum aphid load regression was done. Moderate to high aphid pressure, good growing conditions, and initial aphid infestations occurring before boot stage were experienced in the three locations. Selected ‘R’ hybrids (SP7715, BH4100, DKS37-07 and DKS48-07) maintained aphid densities below 100 aphids per leaf with no leaf injury at Corpus Christi. At Rosenberg where aphid pressure was greatest, BH4100 and SP7715 had peak aphid populations at 300 aphids per leaf, and DKS4807 and DKS3707 had peak aphid populations at 200 aphids per leaf. No yield loss was detected. The two ‘S’ comparators (DKS 5367 and DKS3888) had peak aphid populations as high as 500 aphid per leaf, but little yield decline was detected under the excellent growing conditions in Rosenberg.
Guidance on use of partially resistant hybrids.
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 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 Board helps guide this effort. For those considering growing commercial ‘tolerant’ hybrids, current season-long research confirms that most but not all of these hybrids express partial protection of plants from sugarcane aphid. With these first year results, we are able to provide initial guidance on adjusting thresholds upward for these hybrids, under the good growing conditions we experienced in three locations. For these hybrids, adjustment of thresholds to a level at or above the ET in the right ‘Adjusted ET’ column was supported. We advise additional testing at and above these levels to verify this work and obtain more specific values under a range of growing conditions and locations.
*If you would like to review the entire study including planting dates/conditions please email Katelyn Luckett, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Export Report—Exports continued to strengthen after the holiday break with China, Indonesia, Japan and Mexico committing to purchase 2.3 million bushels of U.S. sorghum. These sales bring total commitments to 128 million bushels or 51 percent of the USDA target, with 33 weeks left in the marketing year. Shipments were also very strong with China, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria purchasing 7.9 million bushels. Prices on the Gulf were firm.