Texas Sorghum Insider

October 28, 2016

Property Rights Organization Launched—Earlier this week, Texans for Property Rights (TPR) announced its formation. TPR is a coalition of state agriculture organizations dedicated to protecting landowners’ property rights. TGSA was proud to sign its name onto the coalition and we look forward to working in Austin and around the state to advance its cause. We encourage you to visit www.TexansforPropertyRights.com and share your story to help defend all landowners’ rights.

New Program Offered at Annual Amarillo Farm Show—The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will be offering something a little different at this year’s Panhandle Farm and Ranch Management Symposium during the Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show, Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

“We are calling the program RRAD as it emphasizes Researched, Relevant information provided by AgriLife and encourages Discussion and interaction,” said Danny Nusser, AgriLife Extension regional program leader in Amarillo.

The RRAD program will be in the Grand Plaza of the Amarillo Civic Center, 401 S. Buchanan St. in Amarillo. It will follow the annual Amarillo Chamber of Commerce luncheon, and conclude around 5 p.m.

“This program is designed to allow producers an opportunity to gain research-based, relevant knowledge on topics important to them,” Nusser said. “In addition, we will focus on allowing producers time to interact and share experiences related to these topics and get questions answered.”

Producers will have a choice of six sessions they can attend. Each session will be 1 hour and 15 minutes. At the conclusion of each session, producers can move to a different location and topic.

“This presentation approach allows producers to attend the sessions of interest and come and go as they please,” he said. “We felt like this new approach could meet individual needs for information and time. It also allows producers to contribute to the discussion about their experiences and opinions related to each topic.”

There will be the potential for up to three Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units in the areas of laws and regulations, integrated pest management and general.  The CEU’s will only be offered for those topics focusing on issues related to pesticides.

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Market Perspectives– SorghumNet sales of 300 MT for 2016/2017 resulted as increases for China (57,500 MT, including 58,000 MT switched from unknown destinations and decreases of 500 MT) and South Korea (800 MT), were partially offset by reductions for unknown destinations (58,000 MT). Exports of 61,800 MT were reported to China (57,500 MT) and Mexico (4,300 MT). To read the entire Market Perspectives, provided by the US Grains Council, click here.

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October 14, 2016

On the Road Again – On Wednesday, September 28 the Texas House Committee on Transportation held an interim hearing to discuss ongoing concerns with cargo weight limits and truck axle regulations. Present Texas Transportation code prevents any vehicle from operating on a public highway or port-of-entry to Mexico if it has:
1) A single axle weight over 20,000 lbs
2) A tandem axle weight over 34,000 lbs
3) An overall gross weight over 80,000 lbs
The committee heard testimony advising for and against raising those limit. Business and manufacturing trade association representatives, citing their industries’ projected production growth, proposed increasing the above weight limits. Trucking industry representatives, however, expressed concerns about the safety of heavier loads, which would have less stable centers of gravity and greater potential for damage in the case of a crash. The trucking industry said they would not support any weight increases without mandating six axles for those loads. it was brought to the committee’s attention that Texas is in fact the only state that doesn’t allow six-axle trucks to enter ports. Even adding extra axles, though, is accompanied by concerns for truckers’ safety in situations involving inclement weather. The financial burden for repairing the stress to roads that would result from these increased loads was not a central issue of discussion in this hearing, but it continues to be a significant obstacle to advancing any legislation on the issue.

Texas Water Hearing – On October 13, the Texas House Agriculture & Livestock Committee and Natural Resources Committee held a joint hearing to discuss “the sources of water used by Texans in the production of food and fiber, and examine the current water delivery methods and water conservation goals for agricultural use.” The committee heard testimonies from representatives of commodity organizations and water conservation groups.
The committees made it clear that they appreciate the conservation efforts that producers undertake to ensure future generations of Texans have access to water. The testimonies were primarily concerned with addressing the efficiency of existing delivery methods and evaluating the best avenues for government to assist in improving that efficiency.
Although existing water delivery methods already achieve high levels of efficiency – often losing less than 10 percent of water in most systems – the committees and testimonies agreed that there is always room for improvement. For instance, due to exorbitant costs, not all producers are able to purchase the most effective, high-tech water conservation equipment on the market. Kody Bessent, of Plains Cotton Growers, emphasized the importance of cost-sharing government programs when it comes to expanding access to these technologies.
The discussion was focused on agricultural water use, but Rep. Lyle Larson (R – San Antonio) remarked that urban areas such as his district ought to do a better job learning from the conservation efforts in rural Texas. With water looming as a contentious issue in the upcoming 85th Legislative Session, Texas Grain Sorghum Association remains committed to protecting your rights to the most valuable resource we have.

Latin America Trade Team Coming to Texas – A team of 11 sorghum buyers and end users from Colombia and Peru will be in Texas October 19-21 to network with U.S. suppliers and to learn more about the state and national sorghum industry. The visit is hosted by USGC, USCP and TGSB. The team will arrive in the Houston area on October 19th and attend a mini sorghum seminar, tour two port facilities and then will make its way up to Fort Worth stopping at a sorghum farm en route. In Fort Worth, the team will tour and visit with three major sorghum supplier companies. The team will then depart for Detroit, Michigan to attend the U.S. Grains Council 2016 Export Exchange.

Texas Sorghum 2017 RFP – The Texas Grain Sorghum Board (TGSB) has released its 2017 Request for Proposals. Proposals are due by email to morgan@texassorghum.org on or before November 9, 2016. Proposals will be ranked and approved at the winter board meeting of TGSB to be held at the end of November in Amarillo. The board is concentrating on 12 priority areas, with the first prioirty focusing on sugarcane aphid resistant varieties in particular regions, and the promotion of those varieties to growers. If your proposal is chosen, the producer board would like all final reports to include an index size card that has an overall summary of the results found so that those may be copied and handed out to growers. To receive TGSB’s 2017 RFP document, please email morgan@texassorghum.org.

September 2, 2016

Understanding Your Property Rights—As any landowner will tell you, the threat of being legally liable for someone else’s actions on their property – whether the person was invited or trespassing – often weighs on their mind. Eighty percent of Texas land is privately owned, meaning it’s important for everyone to understand their property rights. Take, for instance, the recent Texas Supreme Court case Boerjan v Rodriguez. In it, a “coyote” (a specific kind of transportation for illegal immigrants) was illegally trespassing across a private ranch in South Texas when they were stopped by a ranch employee. The coyote fled, the employee and crashed his car in the process, resulting in the death of the family of immigrants being transported. Other family members of the immigrants filed suit against the ranch for wrongful death, claiming the landowners were culpable for the crash and deaths. Fortunately, a trial court provided summary judgment in favor of the landowners, a decision that was further affirmed by the Texas Supreme Court. The fact that this ended as a cut-and-dry decision did not however, prevent the defendants from spending countless hours in legal preparation and trial proceedings. As such, here is a reminder about the three classes of persons who may enter your property and your duties owed to them:

  1. Trespasser – In the decision in Boerjan, the Court confirmed that “the only duty the premises owner owes a trespasser is not to injure him willfully, wantonly, or through gross negligence.” Simple negligence cannot be captured in the situation of a trespasser, making this the most limited duty a landowner owes to a third-party.
  2. Licensee – Licensee refers to a third-party allowed to enter your property when the general public may not be. Examples of this class include emergency responders or state inspectors. Landowners must make a licensee aware of (or remedy) dangerous conditions the licensee would be naturally unaware of. In addition, the landowner cannot intentionally injure the licensee. The duty owed to a licensee is broader than the duty owed to a trespasser.
  3. Invitee – An invitee refers to a person who enters the property for mutual benefit with the landowner. A friend, coworker, or anyone you provide with express permission to enter your private property is considered an invitee. This class commands the widest liability. All the responsibilities owed to a licensee (no intentional injury, make aware of dangerous conditions) are included, but it is taken one step further. The landowner must also make an invitee aware of (or remedy) a dangerous condition that they could have known about with a reasonable inspection of their property.

USDA Releases First 2017 Ag Export Forecast— China will surpass Canada as the top destination for U.S. agricultural exports in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first forecast for next year’s export totals. USDA projected total U.S. agricultural exports at $133 billion for fiscal year 2017, the sixth highest ever and up $6 billion from the last forecast. USDA lowered sorghum exports by $600 million for 2017, based on expectations of reduced demand from China, even as robust sales and shipments of sorghum continue to push volumes of sorghum exports higher than USDA projections in fiscal year 2016.

Market Perspectives– SorghumNet sales of 9,500 MT for 2015/2016 resulted as increases for China (64,200 MT, including 55,000 MT switched from unknown destinations), Indonesia (200 MT), and South Korea (100 MT), were partially offset by reductions for unknown destinations (55,000 MT). For 2016/2017, net sales of 68,000 MT were reported for unknown destinations (58,000 MT) and Japan (10,000 MT). Exports of 145,100 MT were up noticeably from the previous week and 33 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (143,200 MT), Mexico (1,400 MT), Indonesia (400 MT), and South Korea (200 MT). To read the entire Market Perspectives, provided by the US Grains Council, click here.

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Comment Today on Need for Atrazine, Propazine—Atrazine and propazine are under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite science-based regulations demonstrating the safety of these chemicals for more than 50 years, the EPA’s hyperactive regulatory machine threatens to render these important crop protection tools useless in controlling weeds on 90 percent of the acres in the U.S. Weigh in on how EPA’s draft Ecological Risk Assessments put farmers at an economic disadvantage and submit your own comments before October 4, 2016, at http://sorghumgrowers.com/sorghumalert.

August 16, 2016

Comment Today on Need for Atrazine, Propazine—Atrazine and propazine are under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite science-based regulations demonstrating the safety of these chemicals for more than 50 years, the EPA’s hyperactive regulatory machine threatens to render these important crop protection tools useless in controlling weeds on 90 percent of the acres in the U.S. Weigh in on how EPA’s draft Ecological Risk Assessments put farmers at an economic disadvantage and submit your own comments before October 4, 2016, at http://sorghumgrowers.com/sorghumalert.

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Agricultural Loan Guarantee Program—Open enrollment is currently underway for the ALG Program. The program provides financial assistance to establish or enhance farming or ranching operations or to establish an agricultural-related business. Assistance is available in the form of guarantees based on a tiered structure, not to exceed $750,000 or 70% of the loan amount—whichever is less.

There are three options depending on the terms of the loan:

  • $250,000 or 90% of the loan amount, whichever is less
  • $500,000 or 80% of the loan amount, whichever is less
  • $750,000 or 70% of the loan amount, whichever is less

Young Farmer Grant (YFG) Program: TAFA offers a semiannual grant program to eligible applicants who are at least 18 years of age but younger than 46 years of age and who are engaged in creating or expanding agriculture in Texas. The applicant must be able to make dollar-for-dollar matching expenditures to sustain, create or expand the proposed project. Individual grants may range from $5,000 to $10,000.

Interest Rate Reduction (IRR) Program: TAFA works with the Texas Comptroller to facilitate lending at below market rates to qualified applicants for projects that will establish, enhance or expand an agricultural operation in Texas.

Young Farmer Interest Rate Reduction (YFIRR) Program: Young farmers can see greater reductions in their interest costs through this program. Any person who is at least 18 years of age but younger than 46 years of age and proposes to use loan proceeds in a manner that will help accomplish the state’s goal of fostering the creation and expansion of an agricultural business in Texas is eligible.

For additional information including program specific details click here. For questions contact TDA’s Grants Office at 512-463-6908 or by email at Grants@TexasAgriculture.gov.

2016 NASS Cash Rent Statistics Released—The 2016 NASS results of their Cash Rent surveys have been released. The results are obtained by a survey of farmers conducted by the United States Department of Agricultural National Agricultural Statistics Service. Every year, NASS collects cash rent data by state for irrigated cropland, non-irrigated cropland, and pastureland.  In even numbered years, they break this data down by county.  The county-level reports should be out in September.  For now, we have the national and state-by-state results. Nationwide, cash rental rates have dropped in the last year.  Here are the results of the cash rent survey:

  • Pastureland: $13/acre (down $1.00 from 2015)
  • Non-irrigated cropland: $125/acre (down $8.00 from 2015)
  • Irrigated cropland: $206/acre (down $3.00 from 2015)

For Texas, the results were mixed with an increase in irrigated cropland rates, but decreases for dryland cropland and pasture.  The survey results are as follows:

  • Pastureland:  $6.80/acre (down $0.70 from 2015)
  • Non-irrigated cropland:  $27.00 (down $2.00 from 2015)
  • Irrigated cropland:  $90.00 (up $8.00 from 2015)

In order to view the average lease rates for irrigated cropland, non-irrigated cropland, and pastureland in each of the 50 states, click here. If you are interested in more information on leasing, join Shannon Ferrell and Tiffany Dowell Lashmet on Wednesday (Aug. 17), at 11 central time for our free webinar on Agricultural Leases. For more information on the webinar, click here. The post 2016 NASS Cash Rent Statistics Released appeared first on Texas Agriculture Law.

TGSP Approves SCA Insecticide Decision Aid Research Study— Development of a Decision Aid for Control of the Sugarcane Aphid in Grain Sorghum after the Initial Insecticide Application; Co-Investigators: Pat Porter, Blayne Reed, Kerry Siders, Tommy Doederlein, and Katelyn Kowles. Collaborator: Ed Bynum. (Extension Entomologist, Extension Agent—IPM.)—Until sugarcane aphid resistant hybrids become available it is likely that much of the sorghum acreage on the High Plains will exceed the economic threshold and require at least a first insecticide application. However, there is no clear economic threshold for deciding to make a second, follow-up insecticide application and growers are faced with the possibility of applying insecticides that are not needed or not applying insecticides that are needed. Through this study a decision guide will be developed, allowing producers to quickly determine when to apply second and subsequent insecticide applications. The plant damage to yield loss relationships documented through this work will also assist in getting Section 18 emergency use registrations for new insecticides. On-farm trials will be conducted in Hockley/Cochran/Lamb (Kerry Siders) and Dawson/Lynn (Tommy Doederlein) counties. The same experimental design will be used in all on-farm trials. Pat Porter and Katelyn Kowles will travel to Dawson/Lynn counties to help collect data. An expanded trial at the Lubbock Research and Extension Center will follow the same protocol but will be conducted on sugarcane aphid susceptible sorghum (DK36-06) and sugarcane aphid resistant sorghum (DK37-07) in order to determine whether resistant sorghum has a different yield to leaf damage rating relationship than does susceptible sorghum. Blayne Reed and his field scouts will travel to Lubbock to help collect data.

Market Perspectives–Sorghum: Net sales of 60,400 MT for 2015/2016 were reported for China (49,600 MT, switched from unknown destinations), unknown destinations (8,000 MT), Colombia (2,500 MT), and Mexico (400 MT). For 2016/2017, net sales of 55,500 MT were reported for unknown destinations. Exports of 241,400 MT were up noticeably from the previous week and from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (213,000 MT), Colombia (27,500 MT), and Mexico (1,000 MT). To read the entire Market Perspectives, provided by the US Grains Council, click here.
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July 25, 2016

Lesser Prairie Chicken Removed from Endangered Species List –The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed the lesser prairie chicken from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in a final rule published on Wednesday, July 20. The action follows a court order ruling that vacated the species’ listing under the Endangered Species Act. While the delisting is a short-term victory for landowners, the action from the agency does not constitute a biological determination on whether the bird warrants federal protection. As a result, the agency announced it will undertake a re-evaluation of the bird’s status relative to a five-state conservation program to determine whether ESA listing is still necessary.

In the coming weeks we will take a closer look at research projects approved for funding by the TGSP board of directors. These projects are currently taking place and final results should be available by January 2017. If you have further questions regarding studies, please reach out to Katelyn Luckett, katelyn@texassorghum.org.

TGSP Approves BMP/Yield Research Study—Demonstrating Grain Sorghum Potential in Texas: Using Best Management Practices to Maximize Yield and Economic Return; Principal Investigator: Ronnie Schnell—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 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. This study will use demonstration/ research plots within major sorghum production regions of Texas to compare current and common farmer practices to high input production systems with corresponding higher yield goals. The goal is to determine the true genetic and environmental limits to grain sorghum by production region. Yield potential and associated inputs will be weighed against economic return to optimize yield goals and recommendations.

Market PerspectivesSorghum: Net sales of 53,500 MT for 2015/2016 were up 25 percent from the previous week, but down 39 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases were reported for China (28,000 MT), Colombia (25,000 MT), and Indonesia (500 MT). Exports of 2,500 MT were down 98 percent from the previous week and 96 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destination was Mexico. To read the entire Market Perspectives, provided by the US Grains Council, click here.

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Comment Today on Need for Atrazine, Propazine—Atrazine and propazine are under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite science-based regulations demonstrating the safety of these chemicals for more than 50 years, the EPA’s hyperactive regulatory machine threatens to render these important crop protection tools useless in controlling weeds on 90 percent of the acres in the U.S. Weigh in on how EPA’s draft Ecological Risk Assessments put farmers at an economic disadvantage and submit your own comments before October 4, 2016, at http://sorghumgrowers.com/sorghumalert.

July 7, 2016

Trade Team Stops in Texas—Last week, Texas Grain Sorghum Producers (TGSP) hosted a team of leading Chinese sorghum importers and feed millers during the trade teams time in Texas. Members of the team were hand-selected by U.S. Grains Council staff in China and represent organizations that purchased 2.5 million metric tons (98 million bushels) of China’s total U.S. sorghum imports in the 2014/2015 marketing year.

“It is vital that Texas Sorghum maintain clear lines of communication and strong relationships with our Chinese end users,” said Wayne Cleveland, TGSP executive director. “This trade mission allowed the team to put a face with sorghum production, to ask producers questions and learn more about effective ways to incorporate sorghum into feed rations.”

During their time here the trade team made stops in South Texas. James Kamas, Clarence Chopelas and Darrell Bowers met with the group and walked through fields, where sorghum was in varying stages leading up to harvest. The producers answered production questions and some of the team members were even able to ride a combine as sorghum was harvested. The team also visited Boening Brothers Diary, where they include popped sorghum in rations. They were also interested in learning more about handling logistics so multiple elevator stops were included as well as a tour of Louis Dreyfus and the Port of Houston.

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Clarence Chopelas discussed sorghum harvest and farming practices with the team at his farm near Mathis.

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Scott Boening showed the team popped sorghum used at his dairy.

A Sticky Situation— One of the more difficult questions our industry faces is how – in light of robust yields and broad international demand – can low farm prices continue to render agriculture operations unprofitable? This question, NSP’s John Duff explains in this year’s spring edition of Sorghum Growers Magazine, begets a series of narrower questions that help to explain why commodity prices remain so sticky and what conditions might engender a more bullish outlook.

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In this piece, Duff identifies a handful of variables that, when weighed in relation to commodity price through a process called regression analysis, can explain most of the variance in commodity pricing. The above chart demonstrates how 83% of the variance in commodity prices can be explained by the price of gold. John goes on to show how this analysis can be used to construct a set of upper and lower bounds within which future prices can be expected to fall. It’s important to remember that these findings are predicated on a series of assumptions that are always subject to change. To better understand those assumptions and how they’re projected to affect future commodity prices, read the rest of Duff’s piece here.

Market Perspectives— The following report is from the week ending June 23, 2016. The updated export sales report will be available in next week’s edition of Market Perspectives or on July 8, 2016 via USDA/FAS’ website. Sorghum: Net sales of 84,600 MT for 2015/2016 were down 50 percent from the previous week and 38 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases reported for China (112,600 MT, including 53,000 MT switched from unknown destinations and decreases of 1,400 MT) and Colombia (25,000 MT), were partially offset by reductions for unknown destinations (53,000 MT). Exports of 56,300 MT were up noticeably from the previous week, but down 33 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were China (53,100 MT) and Mexico (3,200 MT). To read the entire Market Perspectives, provided by the US Grains Council, click here.

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Comment Today on Need for Atrazine, Propazine–Atrazine and propazine are under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite science-based regulations demonstrating the safety of these chemicals for more than 50 years, the EPA’s hyperactive regulatory machine threatens to render these important crop protection tools useless in controlling weeds on 90 percent of the acres in the U.S. Weigh in on how EPA’s draft Ecological Risk Assessments put farmers at an economic disadvantage and submit your own comments before October 4, 2016, at http://sorghumgrowers.com/sorghumalert.

June 24, 2016

Triazine Comment Period Extended—On Tuesday June 21, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the request from NSP and TGSA to extend the public comment period for the recently updated Atrazine, Propazine, and Simazine risk assessments. We are pleased that the EPA was receptive to our plea to appreciate the inherent inequity of demanding that growers take time out of the busy summer season to defend their livelihood. Comments are now due to the EPA on Oct. 4, 2016. In the coming weeks, TGSA will coordinate further action with NSP. We will be engaging our newly formed delegate body – especially the Regulatory Committee – in order to maximize the number of producers voices that are heard. Expect to hear from us with assistance on how to write and submit comments, as well as which talking points to focus on.

Sorghum Feeding Seminars Held in Peru – With 30 million people and a GDP growth rate of 5.1% Peru represents one of the greatest export opportunities of grain sorghum in South America.  “Where we see economic growth in a market the first spending increase generally occurs at home with an animal protein enhanced diet,” said Wayne Cleveland.  “In the case of Peru, their animal feed operations, as well as dairies, are expanding at a fast pace to service that market.”  The two seminars, held in Lima and Trujillo, focused on the use of grain sorghum in feeding rations along with the use of Distillers Dry Grains.  On hand to give presentations were nutritionists from Tyson Foods, South Dakota State University and the National University of Mexico.  In addition to nutritional information pricing, availability and transportation concerns were addressed by the US Grains Council, Russell Marine Group and the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers.  The seminars were sponsored by the US Grains Council and Foreign Ag Service (FAS).

Wayne Cleveland presenting to Peruvian end-users in Trujillo

Wayne Cleveland presenting to Peruvian end-users in Trujillo

June 8, 2016

Texas Sorghum to Host China Trade Team— A U.S. Grains Council (USGC) trade team of high-volume Chinese sorghum buyers will be in Texas June 27-30 as part of a tour aimed at further developing and strengthening relationships between Chinese sorghum buyers and U.S. suppliers. Members of the team were hand-selected by USGC staff in China and represent organizations that purchased 98 million bushels of China’s total U.S. sorghum imports in the last marketing year. Total commitments to China this marketing year are 260 million bushels with 230 million bushels delivered as of May 26. The team will travel through Central Texas and the Coast making stops near Austin, Odem and Houston. If you would like to meet with the team, please contact Katelyn Luckett, katelyn@texassorghum.org for more information.

EPA Releases Atrazine Risk Assessment—This week, the EPA published its draft ecological assessment in the Federal Register. EPA will be accepting comments until August 5, 2016. After receiving and reviewing public comments, the agency will amend the assessments, as appropriate, the EPA said in a statement. Texas Sorghum will be working closely with National Sorghum Producers to seek input from our grower community, please be on the look out for our call to actions and respond accordingly.

Water Hearing in Austin—On Wednesday June 1, the Texas House of Representatives committee on Natural Resources met to hear public testimony on three interim charges pertaining to water rights and development projects. Although presently Texas is drenched with rainfall, this hearing was intended to address initiatives enacted during the drought of record in 2011 and potential recourses for inevitable future water shortages. Provided testimonies ranged from regulatory agency updates to regional planning group assessments on statutory changes made by past legislatures.

The interim charges on the table Wednesday were broad in nature, primarily asking for legislative oversight on 2015 legislation, joint groundwater planning progress, and ongoing reevaluations of the entire regional and state water planning process. The discussion of agriculture issues was cursory but still respectful of the enormous shadow our industry casts on water planning. Witnesses frequently cited the importance of providing for agriculture and for a healthy regional/statewide balance when crafting water plans.

A large majority of the testimonies were positive and constructive and members were open-handed in their praise for existing water plans and the analysts who construct them. That is not to suggest, however, that all witnesses shied away from criticizing certain elements of the planning and regulatory process. An official from Region A Water Planning Group floated the idea of switching to 10 year regional plans instead of the existing 5 year plans. Bob Harden of the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Owners and Producers censured groundwater districts who illegitimately inverted the planning process by first defining groundwater availability and then constructing models. Mr. Harden alleged that this practice allows entities to regulate “county-by-county” instead of the proper, more broad measures.

This was not the first interim hearing about water rights nor will it be the last. As we draw closer to regular session we will be reaching out to some of our delegate body regarding opportunities to attend hearings and testify about sorghum’s story. I encourage you to read the full list of the House of Representatives interim charges here and reach out to Patrick Wade if you have any comments.

 

May 27, 2016

EPA Deputy Administrator meets with Texas GroupThis week, in an effort to address producers’ ongoing concerns regarding pesticide and insecticide regulation, TGSP invited officials from the EPA to visit sorghum producer Paul Freund’s farm in Needville, Texas. Deputy Administrator Jim Jones and Directory of Chemistry, Economics & Sustainable Strategies David Widawsky joined TGSP staff, Agrilife Extension agents, and representatives from other crops on a tour of Mr. Freund’s operation. Mr. Freund walked the EPA officials through his chemical application practices in an effort to demonstrate how Texas producers prioritize safety and stewardship of the land.

“It’s important that the EPA understands what goes on at an actual farm where their decisions on chemical regulation can have a tremendous effect on profitability and production,” said Executive Director of TGSP Wayne Cleveland. “This is a great step in bridging that gap between producers and the EPA.”

As insecticide labels continue to be pulled, TGSP felt it was important to show the EPA how erratic and dangerous a sugarcane aphid infestation can be. The EPA officials were able to see the proliferate pest firsthand and better understand the pressing need for robust crop protection options. With many of the chemicals best suited for combatting the aphid facing prohibitive regulations, TGSP hoped to communicate the urgency and vigilance that the pest demands from sorghum producers each and every day. South Texas Cotton and Grain (STC&G) Executive Director Jeff Nunley, Ft. Bend Extension Agent John Gordy and CPS officials were also in attendance for the visit. These men echoed the producers’ call for accurate, empirical science and procedural transparency. TGSP is currently working toward sending a group of producers and staff to visit the EPA in Washington DC. The EPA officials who attended said they would be glad to provide the same level of transparency as to the regulatory process as Mr. Freund provided in regard to the application process. Stay tuned for future opportunities to engage with regulatory agencies and help build a more responsive, producer-friendly relationship.

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Wayne Cleveland discusses the use of chemicals on farms with EPA Deputy Director, Jim Jones during an farm tour in Needville, Texas.

 

 

Valley Sorghum—Harvest in the LRGV is expected gear up next week, below are a few from the field photos.

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Photo provided by Dale Murden

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Photo provided by Dale Murden

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Photo provided by Spence Pennington

Monsanto Rejects Bayer’s Buyout Offer—Monsanto has rejected the $62 billion buyout bid from Bayer. The Monsanto board of directors unanimously voted against the offer, calling it “incomplete and financially inadequate.” Monsanto said in a press release it is “open to continued and constructive conversations to assess whether a transaction in the best interest of Monsanto shareowners can be achieved.” Bayer also released a statement saying, “Bayer announced today that it looks forward to engaging in constructive discussions with Monsanto regarding the proposed transaction.” Monsanto’s board of directors said there is no set timeline for when further discussions will take place.

May 11, 2016

Sugarcane Aphid Update—The sugarcane aphid has made an early arrival this season, being found early in South Texas and as far north as the lower Texas Panhandle. Entomologist say although this is concerning, it does not give us any indication of how serious sugarcane aphids may be this season across Texas. Some growers in South Texas began spraying for the aphid last week and are managing the pest with reports indicating populations are low and beneficial insect numbers are increasing. Two products were proven to be very effective during the 2015 growing season – Sivanto Prime and Transform WG. After immense pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas recently received Section 18 approval for the use of Transform. Dr. Brent Bean, Sorghum Checkoff agronomist, emphasizes the importance of following best management practices, planting early and using treated seed this season, which can prevent early season crop injury from the sugarcane aphid. For additional resources, including best management practices, tolerant hybrids, scouting recommendations and more, click here.

Pesticide Overview—Lately, it seems like not a day can pass without news coming through of the EPA or the courts pulling another valuable crop protection chemical’s label. Despite their wide-reaching impacts, these discussions are typically laden with bureaucratic language, making them less accessible to the general public. To help bridge this gap, Patrick Wade has broken down the two primary recourses producers have to regain access to chemicals whose labels have been pulled:

Section 18 – Pesticide Emergency Exemptions
Should an “urgent, non-routine situation that requires the use of a pesticide” emerge, state or federal agencies may request an emergency exemption for use of an unregistered pesticide. These requests are typically filed in order to avert either a significant economic loss or a significant risk to the environment and/or valuable organisms. Upon receiving this exemption request, the EPA evaluates the validity of the claim, the dietary, occupational, and environmental risks associated, and the pesticide’s present progress towards traditional registration. After a 50-day evaluation, should the claim meet these requirements, the pesticide will be granted one of four exemption statuses:

  1. Specific Exemption – The most common exemption, occurs when a pest situation is identified that presently registered pesticides are incapable of remedying. The state agency responsible for pesticide management submits the request and the exemption may last up to one year.
  2. Quarantine Exemption – Occurs when a previously unknown invasive pest appears in the United States. Should the pest’s introduction be proven harmful, this exemption may last up to three years.
  3. Public Health – Occurs when a pest is determined to cause significant risk to human health. This can last up to one year.
  4. Crisis – If the need for any of the three aforementioned statuses is proven to be sufficiently immediate, a 15-day crisis exemption may be granted. After the conclusion of that period, one of the three exemptions may be pursued as well.

Section 24(c) – Special Local Need Registration
Another registration exemption afforded by FIFRA is the Special Local Need (SLR) registration, which occurs when a local pest situation cannot be alleviated by presently registered pesticides. Exemptions under this section must meet stricter requirements than those of Section 18. Established tolerance requirements must still be met in this usage, registration for the SLR use cannot have been, at any point, denied or cancelled by the EPA, no unregistered active ingredients can be used, and all registered pesticide options must have been exhausted.

Once cause has been proven, one of two SLNs will be granted: First-Party SLN or Third-Party SLN. The former occurs when the SLN applicant is the registrant of the product, the latter when the applicant is a grower, growers’ association, or anyone other than the registrant.

Once granted by the state agency (the TDA in Texas’s case), an SLR is not subject to a statutory expiration date. The EPA does, however, have 90 days to comment and can ultimately invalidate the exemption.

EPA Finds Glyphosate not Likely Carcinogenic—The Environmental Protection Agency released a report finding the herbicide Glyphosate likely does not cause cancer in humans, disputing the findings by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. The EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee made the determination in its finalized report on October 1, 2015, but did not release it to the public until now when the agency mistakenly posted the report online. In the EPA’s review, staffers from the Health Effects Division of the agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs pointed to a number of flaws in the methodology used by the WHO scientists in their review. The WHO finding had serious negative consequences for the agricultural industry and was the basis for California’s decision to require all products containing the herbicide to be listed as carcinogenic. The EPA report was inadvertently posted to Regulations.gov, along with several other glyphosate related documents, on April 29. After the report’s release was widely circulated on social media, the EPA removed the documents on May 2. EPA Spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said the documents were taken down because the assessment is not final. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced it will investigate why the EPA pulled the report. In a letter sent to the EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Chairman said the agency’s backtracking from the report, which is clearly marked as final, “Raises questions about the agency’s motivation in providing a fair assessment of glyphosate”. Click here to view the final letter and report.

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