Texas Sorghum Insider

October 7, 2015

Why China Continues to Buy US sorghum –  Today there are 137 million bushels (the production of Texas), that China has committed to purchasing this year. Of that, only 22 million bushels have been shipped. Overnight, China literally bought every kernel of US produced sorghum they could find last marketing year. Consuming 382 million bushels of grain sorghum with a minor knowledge of nutritional feeding basics. This required great faith and a flawed internal buying mechanism intended to protect Chinese corn growers. The policy, that places the price of Chinese produced corn at a $8.50+/bushel (yes bushel, not cwt) guaranteed from their government, still remains in place literally making that corn too high priced for its own consumer CAFO’s to purchase during their “public auction” system. This makes US produced grain sorghum, which has no tariff rate quota(trq) or duties after a specified amount of exports, price friendly to a policy driven market. During this last year, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP) as well as TGSB have called on the new market almost monthly with activities designed to teach the Chinese to more efficiently feed grain sorghum as well as teach about the positive nutritional attributes, and the Chinese have answered with more sales. Grain sorghum fits well in their rations, which are a heavy consumer of poultry (duck) and swine.  In fact, one feeder commented that going to a higher inclusion of grain sorghum in his duck population has lead to increased size in some of the prime cuts (gizzards). While Chinese political food policy is not the optimal way to build a market, it has certainly allowed for the development of a market that has incredible potential in coming years. China will likely not buy at the frenzied pace it did last year but all signs point to it being a long-term customer of grain sorghum.

A Legislative Look – After a contentious session this spring, 16 Texas legislators have announced they will hang up their hats. Some, like Rep. Sylvester Turner and Rep. David Simpson, are running for different offices. Others, such as Rep. Ruth McClendon, are retiring after a long career of public service. Behind, these 16 members will leave open 9 committee chairmanships, 3 vice-chairmanships, and decades of cumulative legislative experience. New leadership will emerge in such pivotal committees as House Appropriations, House Public Education, House Natural Resources, Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development, and Senate Business and Commerce. Below is a chart detailing each vacancy, along with that member’s district and committee assignments. As we draw nearer to the primary on March 1st, 2016, we will continue to update you on candidate and campaign developments.

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Major funding from DOE Announced – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a second major investment in sorghum research. Drought tolerance and nitrogen usage and their microbiological interactions with sorghum plants will be the focus of the two projects funded. Thirteen institutions have joined to complete the two projects. The University of California, Berkeley, will lead the $12.3 million effort on drought tolerance, and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, will lead the $13.5 million effort on nitrogen usage. This announcement marks the second time in the past six months the DOE has committed to investing significantly in sorghum, bringing the agency’s total commitment to the crop during this time to $55.8 million. For more information about these investments and other funded projects click here.

Request for Comment Period Open for EPA Proposed Applicator Rule Change – On August 5, the EPA issued a proposal to revise the Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule. The proposed rule changes include a minimum age of 18 to apply restricted use pesticides and increased safety and education training for applicators. EPA is accepting comments on this topic until Nov. 23. To submit a comment, click here. TGSA stands firmly against EPA’s proposed certification and training regulation changes, and we encourage our members to submit a comment.

September 24, 2015

Request for Comment Period Open for EPA Proposed Applicator Rule Change – On August 5, the EPA issued a proposal to revise the Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule. The proposed rule changes include a minimum age of 18 to apply restricted use pesticides and increased safety and education training for applicators. A graphic with the most glaring changes is below. EPA is accepting comments on this topic until Nov. 23. To submit a comment, click here. TGSA stands firmly against EPA’s proposed certification and training regulation changes, and we encourage our members to submit a comment.

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Comptroller asking for Renewed Ag and Timber Tax Registration Numbers – The Office of the Texas Comptroller is encouraging the 300,000 farmers and ranchers that currently hold a “tax exempt farm use card” to renew that card before the new year begins. The legislation, created in 2011, allowed qualified taxpayers to obtain a card from the Comptroller to show when purchasing farm goods and not pay taxes on those exempt goods. Starting October 1, 2015 the holder will be able to renew their cards by one of three ways: 1) online – you will need a WebFile (RT) number to register that is on the letter 2) phone – call in with your current number and a confirmation letter will be mailed in 5-7 days or 3) paper- processing time will take longer depending on how many are mailed in, but a confirmation number will be mailed. Changes to the card will include that you will no longer need to use a confirmation letter, the exemption certificate will be changed to include an expiration date and all new cards will expire on 12/31/2019. You can sign up for emailed notices when the website is updated to accept renewals (to update your number card) at http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/agriculture/.

Texas Receives Funding through Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership – Last week USDA announced a major investment in the renewable fuels infrastructure. Through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP), USDA will aid in delivering higher blends of renewable fuels across the state and country. TGSB and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program donated major matching funds to the program. To learn more about this project, click here.

September 3, 2015

Lesser Prairie Chicken Removed from Threatened Species List–On Sept. 1, Senior U.S. District Judge Rob Junell struck down the threatened species designation of the lesser prairie chicken. Junell ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” by not giving the regional plan a chance before making the threatened species listing in April 2014.

Water Weekly Week of 8/31/15, provided by Texas Water Development Board–There was a slight decrease in overall drought
in Texas from 25 percent to 23.5 percent
with improvements in East Texas but drought development in Central Texas and the Rio Grande Valley downstream of Del Rio. Statewide reservoir levels decreased to 83 percent, but are still higher than normal (about 79 percent) for this time of year.

Drought conditions

  • 23% now
  • 25% a week ago
  • 5% three months ago
  • 61% a year ago

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El Niño  and Seasonal Precipitation TrendsThese maps show rainfall tendencies in July-August-September and October-November-December. Just as we’ve seen in July and August, El Niño conditions favor drier than normal conditions in East and Central Texas and wetter than normal conditions in the Panhandle.

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WOTUS Now in Effect–The EPA’s clean water rule, also known as Waters of the United States went into effect Aug. 28. There are many factors weighing into the legal battle with EPA to stop the rule. In total, there are 28 states who have filed lawsuits in various jurisdictions. The various cases by request of EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have mostly consolidated to one court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. This was strongly opposed by states and industry. Plaintiffs have stated the rule will cause harm before legal challenges can be posed even with the requests for emergency injunctions. Most attorney generals have asked EPA to delay implementation by at least nine months to allow legal proceedings to proceed. The agency chose not to respond to the request. Tiffany Dowell, Texas A&M Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist recently wrote a blog regarding the new law and provides her perspective as it relates to agriculture. To read the article click here.

August 18, 2015

Texas Managed Pollinator Protection Plan – The purpose of the Texas Managed Pollinator Protection Plan (Texas MP3) is to establish a voluntary strategy to mitigate managed pollinator exposure to insecticides with minimal impact on production agriculture. The newly created program accomplishes this through improving communication between agricultural producers, applicators and beekeepers; increased awareness of Best Management Practices (BMP’s) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, and the creation of the Texas Pollinator Protection Advisory Group to facilitate implementation, provide periodic revision/updates, and facilitate evaluation of the Texas MP3. Wayne Cleveland currently serves as a stakeholder for the advisory group. Outreach for the Texas MP3 will be conducted by multiple agencies and organizations. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Department of Agriculture will be the primary distribution hub of information for growers and applicators. Dissemination will occur through licensing, educational meetings that provide Continuing Education Units (CEU’s), field days and other means. Texas Farm Bureau and various commodity groups will also serve to distribute material for the plan. The Texas Pollinator Protection Advisory Group will also serve as distributors of the information and continue to serve stakeholders through meetings and yearly evaluations of the Texas MP3.

WASDE Report Projects Sorghum Yield Record – USDA released the August World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, which projected a yield record for grain sorghum at 74.6 bushels per acre. The previous record was 73.2 bushels per acres set in 2007. The report also projects this will be the second most valuable sorghum crop in U.S. history valued at $2.23 billion, just behind the 1985 crop valued at $2.24 billion. American sorghum farmers are projected to harvest 573 million bushels, the largest grain sorghum crop since 1999.

NSP Yield Contest – It’s not too late! If you’re feeling like your sorghum crop could be high yielding, then don’t forget to enter the National Sorghum Producer’s (NSP) Yield Contest. Entry forms must be filled out and postmarked at least 10 days before harvest of the contest field and completed forms must be in the NSP office no later than Dec. 1, 2015. Contest winners are recognized each year at an awards banquet in conjunction with Commodity Classic, to be held in the fall in New Orleans, Louisiana. There are seven divisions including:  conventional-till irrigated, conventional-till non-irrigated, no-till non-irrigated, mulch-till non-irrigated, reduced-till irrigated, double crop irrigated, and double crop non-irrigated. And if you’re thinking you could reach 250 bushels per acre, then you should definitely #gofor250. If you reach 250 bushels per acre or greater then you qualify for three prizes. First place gets a 3-year pickup least of a Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford or Toyota ($25,000 value), second place gets an all terrain vehicle ($10,000 value), and third place gets a riding mower ($5,000 value). More contest rules and entry forms may be found by clicking here.

August 5, 2015

Herbicide-Tolerant Sorghum Trait – DuPont Crop Protection and Advanta US have signed a joint agreement to commercialize the DuPont Inzen Z herbicide-tolerance sorghum trait. The non-GMO trait will give growers a greater ability to control yield limiting grass weeds in grain sorghum. DuPont has noted that annual grass weeds reduce U.S. sorghum yields by approximately 20 percent. The new trait will help control key grass weeds such as foxtail, barnyard grass, crabgrass and Texas panic. The Z stands for DuPont Zest, a herbicide formulation to be used with the hybrids. Zest is currently still under development and is not yet registered with the EPA. DuPont Crop Protection and Advanta US are working closely with regulatory agencies and local seed and crop protection teams to develop a product stewardship and best management practices before brining Inzen Z to market. Many farmers in the High Plains are looking into rotating with more sorghum as they battle the unforgiving Roundup resistant careless weeds (also known as pigweeds or Palmer’s amaranth) in their cotton fields.

2015 TGSB Board Elections Underway – Ballots are now available for the biennial election for TGSB’s board of directors and eligible voters may obtain a ballot at their local county agricultural extension office, or grain elevator, or by contacting TGSB staff at (806) 543-5514 or katelyn@texassorghum.org. The election is held by mail ballot and completed ballots must be postmarked by August 27, 2015 and mailed to Texas Grain Sorghum Board, 4201 N. I-27, Lubbock, TX 79403. The current terms of five (5) of the fifteen (15) board members will expire this year including two in the TGSB North District, one in the TGSB Central District, and two in the TGSB South District. Eligible voters – any person living within the TGSB districts who is engaged in the business of producing, or causing to be produced, sorghum for commercial purposes, including their tenants and sharecroppers, if such person is subject to paying the assessment that is collected on sorghum in Texas – may take part in the election.

NSP Yield Contest – It’s not too late! If you’re feeling like your sorghum crop could be high yielding, then don’t forget to enter the National Sorghum Producer’s (NSP) Yield Contest. Entry forms must be filled out and postmarked at least 10 days before harvest of the contest field and completed forms must be in the NSP office no later than Dec. 1, 2015. Contest winners are recognized each year at an awards banquet in conjunction with Commodity Classic, to be held in the fall in New Orleans, Louisiana. There are seven divisions including:  conventional-till irrigated, conventional-till non-irrigated, no-till non-irrigated, mulch-till non-irrigated, reduced-till irrigated, double crop irrigated, and double crop non-irrigated. And if you’re thinking you could reach 250 bushels per acre, then you should definitely #gofor250. If you reach 250 bushels per acre or greater then  you qualify for three prizes. First place gets a 3-year pickup least of a Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford or Toyota ($25,000 value), second place gets an all terrain vehicle ($10,000 value), and third place gets a riding mower ($5,000 value). More contest rules and entry forms may be found by clicking here.

July 23, 2015

Robert Bowling, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Corpus Christi Provides Sorghum Update – Sorghum harvest is underway in the Coastal Bend region. Sorghum producers able to beat the rain or plant around rain events are the first to harvest. Early dryland yield reports have ranged from 3,000 to over 7,000 pounds per acre. This wide range of yields is the result of water standing in some fields for extended periods of time while fields that drained are yielding quite well. Portions of some fields that stood in water vary in plant developmental stages. It is not uncommon to see portions of sorghum fields that have reached physiological maturity while other portions of the same field where water stood for extended periods of time are in dough stage. Differential development of sorghum in these fields have made interesting management of insect pests and will certainly challenge harvest. Rain delayed planting for some sorghum producers forcing them to plant outside the typical window for seeding this crop. Over 30 percent of the 2015 crop was seeded late in the Costal Bend region. Most of these fields are in dough stage while others are starting to color. Typically, these late planted fields would be subject to heavy sorghum midge issues but reports of this sorghum pest have been scattered and overall, midge infestations have been light in late-seeded sorghum. Rice stink bugs have been more of an issue to sorghum producers in the south with well over half of the acres treated for this pest. Sorghum headworms have also presented challenges to many sorghum producers and the combination of both pests within fields have presented challenges in identifying the right combination of insecticides for their control.
What about sugarcane aphid? Sugarcane aphid populations were slow to progress in the Coastal Bend region this year. Most sorghum producers in our region were able to manage this pest with edge and spot treatments with fewer than 20 percent of the acres treated for this aphid. Sugarcane aphid populations have increased over the past couple of weeks necessitating insecticide applications in some late-seeded fields or as tank mixes with harvest aids. A few farmers have tried to outpace the aphid with their harvest aid application only to have issues with sticky grain at harvest. Sorghum producers with late-seeded fields need to scout these fields carefully one to two times per week and treat with an insecticide (such as Transform or Sivanto) if aphid populations exceed the economic threshold of 50 to 125 aphids per leaf. Sorghum nearing harvest also will require monitoring for sugarcane aphid. If sub-threshold population are present and natural enemies of the aphid (such as ladybugs, syrphids, parasites, and lacewings) then a harvest aid may not be necessary. However, if aphids are at or close to thresholds  with aphids present on the upper green leaves then an insecticide would be suggested to reduce or control aphids. Malathion mixed with glyphosate is an option that is attractive because both have the same pre-harvest interval (seven days). However, malathion will likely offer suppression, at best, of sugarcane aphid. Sorghum producers may want to consider a Transform tank mix with glyphosate for heavier aphid populations or if they want to control the aphid prior to harvest. Keep in mind that the preharvest interval for Transform is 14 days so this will delay harvest by 7 days when tank mixed with glyphosate. Some farmers may consider applying Transform prior to applying a harvest aid but this increases the number of trips across the field adding to production costs. If you have questions about managing the sugarcane aphid or any other insect pest please contact your local county agent. Always read and follow label directions before applying any pesticide.

CRP Changes take effect September 1 – USDA released changes for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) required in the 2014 Farm Bill. The overall acreage is capped at 24 million acres, and there is no longer a penalty for emergency haying or grazing with a provision for incidental grazing. Haying and grazing will not be allowed more than once every two years otherwise landowners will experience a 25 percent payment decline. The 2014 Farm Bill also included a grasslands provision allowing up to two million acres of grassland to be added under the CRP cap. The enrollment for grassland conservation begins Sept. 1, 2015, and the first ranking period will be Nov. 20. CRP signup is scheduled for Dec. 1, 2015, until Feb. 26, 2016, as previously announced by USDA. There will be a 60-day comment period.

El Nino Predictions – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting there is a greater than 90% chance that El Nino conditions will continue through this winter, and around an 80% chance it will continue into the early spring of 2016. El Nino is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere in the Tropical Pacific. In Texas this means that it could bring us more upper-level low pressure systems which means more stormy weather, increased rain chances, cooler temps due to more cloud cover, and even the possibility that the Atlantic hurricane season would be less active due to an increase in mid to upper-level wind shear in the Caribbean and Atlantic as reported by Texas Storm Chasers. NOAA’s probability maps for Oct – Dec 2015 (shown below) show above average precipitation chances and below average temperatures for the state.rainfall outlook-1temperature outlook-2

Sorghum Recipe Contest – The Sorghum Checkoff is hosting a Sorghum Recipe Showdown this year. They are asking people across the country to create and submit their best sorghum recipes for a chance to win cool prizes, including $500. The contest seeks recipes that appeal to the home cook while demonstrating the benefits and versatility of cooking with sorghum. For full contest details click here.

 

 

July 2, 2015

Sugarcane Aphid in Lubbock Co. – On Monday, June 29, a small colony of sugarcane aphids was confirmed in one field in Lubbock Co., which is almost two months earlier than in 2014. Special tips from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for producers in this area has been uploaded to the Texas Sorghum website and can be reviewed by clicking here. Although at this point, the pest has only been confirmed in one location in Lubbock Co., we will await further reports from the High Plains in the next week, but growers in this area should begin scouting for this pest now.

USDA Expands Sorghum Acres to 8.84 Million – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its June acreage report this week, increasing its estimated planted grain sorghum acres to 8.84 million, up 11 percent from its March report and 24 percent over the previous year. The two largest grain sorghum-producing states, Kansas and Texas, planted 3.3 million and 3.1 million acres with an increase of 16 and 24 percent, respectively, over the last year.

State Technical Advisory Committee Appointments – Recently, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and United States Trade Representative Michael Froman announced the appointment of 129 private-sector members to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee and six Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees. Among those selected were two board members for Texas Grain Sorghum Producers. TGSA President, Dale Murden of Harlingen, Texas was selected to serve on the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Fruits and Vegetables; and TGSA Board Member, Dale Artho of Wildorado, Texas, will serve on the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee. To see all appointments, click here.

NSP’s 250 Bushel Yield Contest – The National Sorghum Producer’s Yield Contest provides sorghum farmers with the opportunity to showcase their sorghum crop and has again set a new yield goal of 250 bushels per acre to illustrate sorghum’s yield potential. NSP is offering incentives with support from the Sorghum Checkoff to award growers who reach this new benchmark. Contestants successfully participating in this category will receive:  1st Place – Three-year truck lease (Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, or Toyota); 2nd Place – All-terrain vehicle; 3rd Place – Riding lawn mower. For more information visit NSP’s website here or check out this video here.

Department of Energy Invests in Future of Sorghum – The U.S. Department of Energy has recently announced it will be investing $30 million in sorghum research through the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program, one of two new programs providing a more secure and sustainable energy future. This is one of the largest investments the sorghum industry has seen to date and will have a significant impact on the future of sorghum. The TERRA program seeks to develop technologies that can increase the precision, accuracy and throughput of energy crops breeding. Doing so will enable more detailed measurements of phenotyping, plant physiology and more sophisticated bioinformatics for gene discovery and trait association.  A total of six projects were funded through the DOE at universities and research institutions across the nation.

Sorghum Recipe Contest – The Sorghum Checkoff is hosting a Sorghum Recipe Showdown this year. They are asking people across the country to create and submit their best sorghum recipes for a chance to win cool prizes, including $500. The contest seeks recipes that appeal to the home cook while demonstrating the benefits and versatility of cooking with sorghum. For full contest details click here.

June 17, 2015

Sorghum Growers, Josh Birdwell of Malone and Spence Pennington of Raymondville, gave presented crop information at the Export Sorghum event to the 25 International participants in attendance.

Sorghum Growers, Josh Birdwell of Malone and Spence Pennington of Raymondville, gave presented crop information at the Export Sorghum event to the 25 international participants in attendance.

Export Sorghum Recap – The Sorghum Checkoff and Texas Grain Sorghum Producers hosted 25 international grain buyers from China, Mexico and Japan in Houston last week for the second biannual Export Sorghum conference. Also supporting the event were domestic grain merchandisers, farmers, traders, researchers, nutritionists, U.S. Grains Council representatives and other industry professionals. The three-day event provided information on topics ranging from seed technology, market updates and nutritional information. Attendees also had the opportunity to tour both a sorghum farm and the Louis Dreyfus shipping facility at the Port of Houston. Prior to and after the event, the buyers from Mexico and China toured other parts of Texas to learn more about this years crop. “We believe these communications will be extremely useful for us to understand clients’  needs and therefore help us to better position ourselves for mutual benefits,” noted a buyer who attended the event from China. Exports are predicted to consume 77 percent of U.S. sorghum production in the 2015/16 marketing year, according to the most recent USDA WASDE report.

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Sorghum farmer families and friends from around Guy, TX came together to host a Texas style BBQ for the international buyers at the Export Sorghum event. A special thanks to the Mikeska, Schultz, Fotjik, Jakubec and Janke families for hosting!

Sorghum Checkoff Referendum Passes – USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the results of the recent national sorghum checkoff referendum that took place from March 23, 2015 through April 21, 2015. Sorghum producers and importers who voted in the national referendum approved the continuation of the Sorghum Promotion, Research, and Information Order, commonly known as the United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP). There were 1,202 valid ballot casts across the nation and 96.5 percent or 1,160 voted in favor of the program while 42 or 3.5 percent opposed continuing the program. Texas had 602 votes, the most of any of the states, where 580 favored the continuation of the program and only 22 opposed it.

New Sorghum Agronomist for Checkoff – The Sorghum Checkoff recently named Brent Bean, P.h.D., as the organization’s agronomist. In this new position, he will focus on identifying critical sorghum agronomic issues and designing targeted national and regionally based programs that provide farm-level yield advancements. His efforts will be on grain, forage, sweet and biomass sorghum. Texas Sorghum is excited to have Dr. Bean join the Sorghum Checkoff team as he has always been a valuable resource for sorghum agronomic information in the past. Bean was formerly the director of agronomy for NexSteppe Inc. where he had worldwide responsibilities for agronomy research and determined best management practices for optimizing biomass and sweet sorghum production. Prior to working for NexSteppe, Bean worked for Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension for more than 25 years.

TGSB Board Elections – Texas Grain Sorghum Board (TGSB) will hold its biennial election on August 27, 2015. The current terms of five of the 15 board members will expire this year. Any person who is engaged in the business of producing, or causing to be produced, sorghum for commercial purposes, is eligible to vote, including owners of farms and their tenants and sharecroppers, if such person is subject to paying the assessment that is collected on sorghum in Texas. Eligible voters in the districts may take part in the 2015 election. Voters will elect directors to serve a six-year term. Expiring terms include two directors from TGSB’s North District, one director from TGSB’s Central District, and two directors from TGSB’s South District. Any person qualified to vote in the election may place his or her name in nomination to represent the district in which he or she resides on the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board for a maximum term to six years. The nominee must certify that he or she is willing to serve if elected. The nomination form must be signed by the nominee and must have the signatures and complete mailing addresses of ten other eligible voters who reside in the district the person is seeking to represent. Nominations will open on June 22, 2015 and nomination forms may be obtained by contacting TGSB. Nominations must be filed with TGSB by July 27, 2015. The election will be held by mail ballot, which will be available to all eligible voters no later than 15 days prior to the election. Completed ballots must be mailed to Texas Grain Sorghum Board, 4201 N. I-27, Lubbock, TX 79403 and must be postmarked before midnight on August 27, 2015. Persons qualified to vote who do not receive a ballot 15 days prior to the election may obtain one at their local county agricultural extension office, or grain elevator, or by contacting TGSB.

Current Ag Legal Issues Update – Tiffany Dowell, Texas A&M Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, recently provided an update on a number of hot topics through her blog. WOTUS Rule Update. Many of you have asked questions recently regarding what is going to happen with the EPA’s now-final “waters of the United States” rule.  The rule should be published in the Federal Register any day.  Sixty days after that, it will become effective.  Numerous groups have already drafted lawsuits that will be filed challenging the scope of the new rule.  In the meantime, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a bill this week that would repeal the final rule, provide guidelines to the EPA for re-formulating a rule, and require the EPA to consider input from stakeholders.  The bill will now be on the floor of the Senate.  [Read article here.] New Texas Law Would Protect Groundwater Conservation District Board Members from Personal Suit. Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3163, which provides immunity for GCD Board members from lawsuits for official votes and official actions.  The Texas Statesman published an interesting article this week discussing the stress on GCD board members and why this bill is needed.  [Read article here.]  The bill is currently on Governor Abbott’s desk awaiting signature. To subscribe to the daily blog updates on legal topics affecting the ag industry click here.

June 2, 2015

Sugarcane Aphid Population Smaller Than Expected – As farmers throughout the Rio Grande Valley braced themselves for another battle with the sugar cane aphid this year, populations seem to be smaller than last year. Researches believe steady rains and other factors this year may have stopped the insect from invading the sorghum crop. Last May, researchers warned that sorghum growers who failed to spray their fields faced crop losses of 50 to 80 percent after the insect’s population erupted across the region. Exploding growth led the aphid to infest the Valley’s sorghum fields in about two weeks, first attacking the plant’s leaves before beginning to move to its head, which farmers harvest for its grain. “We have an enigma as to what’s happening,” said Raul Villanueva, an entomologist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Weslaco. “We were predicting them to be very abundant this year.” Villanueva recommended growers continue to check their fields for the pest. Last year, he said, the aphid reached peak populations in late June, mid-August and late September. “That’s our concern,” Villanueva said. “They need to continue checking their fields. This population can increase tremendously in two weeks.”

Unexpected Year Continues to Pose Problems for Producers – There is no doubt 2015 has been unlike anything producers across the state of Texas were prepared for. With the much-needed moisture making it impossible to get into some fields and planting date insurance deadlines looming for cotton, some producers are wondering what to do if they can’t get planted in time. They must also consider the cotton herbicides they have already applied to fields and restrictions that apply for other crops. According to Southwest Farm Press, Jourdan Bell, assistant professor and agronomist, Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center-Amarillo, noted in a recent email that farmers do have options. “The inability to plant cotton, coupled with cotton herbicides on the ground is a big concern,” she says. Bell recommends a link to a publication by Calvin Trostle, Extension agronomist at Lubbock, that addresses crop restrictions for herbicides applied for cotton. Treflan is bound very tightly in the soil, farmers can plant below the herbicide, and it is important to remember planting depth will vary, depending on how deep the herbicide was incorporated. Recent rains will not wash away the herbicide to alleviate the problem. It is best to plant under ideal conditions with soil temperatures at 65 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 days to ensure vigorous early growth.

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KIND Bars Now Include Sorghum – The KIND brand has added two new Healthy Grains bars, popped salted caramel and popped dark chocolate with sea salt, that include sorghum as one of their six super grains in their whole grain ingredient blend. The Healthy Grains bars are promoted as gluten free and non-GMO. Popped Salted Caramel KIND Healthy Grains bars each have 20 grams of whole grains and are baked with caramel chunks and sea salt, while the Popped Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt KIND Healthy Grains bars each have 19 grams of whole grains and are baked with dark chocolate chunks and sea salt. KIND bars can be found at multiple locations such as GNC, Target and Vitamin Shoppe just to name a few, or on a variety of websites online. To order directly from the Kind website, visit www.kindsnacks.com.

Export Sorghum – Next week an exclusive three-day sorghum event hosted by the Sorghum Checkoff and Texas Sorghum Producers will take place in Houston, Texas. The event focuses on selling sorghum by building trade relationships between international sorghum buyers and U.S. exporters and by educating buyers on all that sorghum has to offer in hopes that they will continue to buy sorghum or begin to buy sorghum in the future. Approximately 25 international attendees from China, Mexico and Japan will be in attendance to hear up-to-date sorghum information that include presentations on markets, nutritional data, and upcoming sorghum research just to name a few. Prior to and after the event, the international teams will tour parts of Texas and Kansas making stops at elevators, sorghum fields and a port to learn more about U.S. sorghum.

Don’t forget to check-out our new online calendar at www.texasgsa.com/events! For calendar sponsorship opportunities, contact katelyn@texassorghum.org.

May 21, 2015

New TGSA Online Calendar – Recently, TGSA launched a new industry calendar on its website with the intent of providing producers, industry leaders and friends with a go to location for agricultural information and events. The calendar is geared toward both domestic and international viewers. By highlighting planting and harvest dates for major crops across Texas, the calendar provides international buyers with a better idea of crop status across the state. The calendar also includes sorghum industry events, elevator meetings, field dates, legislative updates and USGC reports among other things. It is our hope that this will serve as an industry calendar for Texas agriculture. As we continue to grow the calendar, if you have an event you would like to have posted on TGSA’s calendar, please contact Katelyn Luckett at katelyn@texassorghum.org. To view the calendar go to http://texasgsa.com/events/.

A snapshot of TGSA's new online calendar.

A snapshot of TGSA’s new online calendar.

Weekly Market Perspectives Report – Interested in what the international grain markets are doing week to week? The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) publishes a weekly Market Perspectives Report online. The report offers readers information about current coarse grain markets including price, weather and freight information for buying U.S. grains and their co-products. The most recent report and a list of archives can be accessed at a variety of places online:  USGC’s website or on TGSA’s new website calendar. If you wish to receive the report every Friday in your inbox, you can request it by emailing USGC at grains@grains.org.

A snapshot of a section of last week's USGC's Market Perspectives Report.

A snapshot of a section of last week’s USGC’s Market Perspectives Report.

Sugarcane Aphid Tips – There’s no doubt a pesky bug known as the sugarcane aphid is a lingering worry for most sorghum producers in Texas. Although the pest can be detrimental to a sorghum crop, the Sorghum Checkoff (USCP) believes if producers keep these five tips in mind, damage to fields can be minimized:

  1. Scout early and often – Justin Weinheimer, Sorghum Checkoff crop improvement director, says the most important aspect in dealing with the aphid is scouting. He encourages producers to scout for aphid presence several times a week, particularly as they near the latter part of the growing season. With early detection of the aphid, producers are able to put in place a scouting schedule and management plan. “Once producers get their scouting schedule set and identify their management plan, they will really be able to get a head start on identifying the issue before it becomes severe,” Weinheimer said.
  2. A few aphids does not mean crop failure or a need to spray immediately…it means scout more often – When sugarcane aphids are first detected, it is important to remember that a few aphids does not necessarily mean there is an issue. At first detection, Weinheimer said producers should scout further into their fields to see how the aphids have moved within the field as well as into neighboring fields. Producers should continue to scout at least three times a week throughout the season in order to monitor how the aphid is progressing. “I think the first step here for producers needs to be to reach out to their local entomologist expert to let them know they have identified this issue,” Weinheimer said. “Then they can work as a team, as a farm operation, to decide how to go about tackling it.”
  3. Current spray threshold estimates are 100 aphids per leaf – The recommended threshold for spraying is 100 aphids per leaf on several leaves on a plant, on at least 10 plants across the field. According to Weinheimer, it is important for producers to be able to determine if they are at that threshold as well as determine when to spray depending on where they are in the growing season. “Sorghum can take a high-aphid load, in terms of the number of aphids per plant, before it starts detrimentally impacting yield,” he said.
  4. The aphid reproduces very fast…do not wait to check back on a field – Scouting becomes even more important once the presence of the sugarcane aphid is detected. Because of the quick reproduction cycle of the aphid, its population can grow from a few aphids to a full infestation within a 10-day period if no action is taken. “In order to accurately gauge what the aphids are doing in the field, producers really have to be checking every three days,” Weinheimer said.
  5. There are tools available to help prevent and combat this pest – DEKALB, Pioneer and Chromatin announced the addition of hybrids that showed tolerance to the aphid. In addition, Syngenta recently announced approval for Cruiser 5FS seed treatment in 16 states by Section 2(ee) exemption. These companies along with others continue to research additional genetics to introduce to the market. When the aphid population reaches the spray threshold, producers have some options when it comes to pesticides. Transform WG, a product of Dow AgroSciences, is available by state through a Section 18 exemption. Sivanto, produced by Bayer CropScience, is a newly available option with a full label at a reduced rate. Other companies also offer broad-level insecticides that can be used to treat aphids.

To help mitigate the effects of the sugarcane aphid, Sorghum Partners recently announced a Sugarcane Aphid Integrated Pest Management (IPM)program that combines the use of multiple pest control tactics. Weinheimer said producers will continue to see more tools brought to the market in the near future, and the Sorghum Checkoff is actively involved in gaining a better understanding of how to manage it. Currently, the Checkoff is working in collaboration with Dow AgroSciences on a national endeavor geared toward sugarcane aphid control. The Checkoff board of directors invested $350,000 in this project. “The sugarcane aphid, while it has presented some issues in the past, is treatable,” Weinheimer said. “It is possible to have a very profitable crop and do a great job growing grain sorghum in the presence of the aphid.”

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The NWS map shows the observed precipitation in Texas for the past 30 days.

Wet Weather Pauses Farming – Texas AgriLife’s weekly crop report can pretty much be summed with the word “wet”.  Heavy rains continue to impact much of the state. The coast was pounded with yet again more rain and many fields in the area still have standing water in their fields covering up the sorghum and cotton. There are still areas that have a good crop of sorghum, with early planted fields beginning to head out. North Texas has had lots of rains that have caused flooding, and for the time being, has halted corn and sorghum planting. The sorghum fields that have been planted were showing not to be in the best condition and might have to be replanted once it dries out. The panhandle and high plains areas also saw more rain and are experiencing much colder than average temps which has delayed planting and put everything behind schedule. Because of this, farmers are looking at shorter season corn hybrids and are thinking about replacing some acres with sorghum. Sorghum is also expected to go behind harvested wheat once growers can get in the field to begin harvest. The valley also received more rain but row crops were mostly reported to be progressing well.

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The rains this year have definitely helped the Texas drought index from where we were one year ago today (right).

USDA Invests $6.5 Million to Help Conserve Water & Improve Water Quality in Ogallala Aquifer Region – On May 14, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the USDA plans to invest $6.5 million in the Ogallala Aquifer region this year to help farmers and ranchers conserve billions of gallons of water and improve water quality. Funding will be targeted to seven priority areas to support their primary water source and strengthen rural economies. “This funding assists conservationists and agricultural producers in planning and implementing conservation practices that conserve water and improve water quality,” said Vilsack. “This work not only expands the viability of the Ogallala Aquifer but also helps producers across the Great Plains strengthen their agricultural operations.” Through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI), USDA’s NRCS is directing funding in FY 2015 to support targeted, local efforts to improve the quality and availability of this vital water supply. This year’s work is planned in seven priority areas in five states and will continue for up to four years. It will conserve billions of gallons of water per year, extending the viability of the aquifer for multiple uses. This conservation investment builds on $66 million that NRCS has invested through OAI since 2011, which helped farmers and ranchers conserve water on more than 325,000 acres. The Secretary noted that much of the funding invested by USDA has been matched or supplemented by individual producers. To see the complete list of priority areas, click here.

2016 Federal Crop Insurance Deadline – June 1st is the deadline for growers to file an AD-1026 at their local FSA offices in order to be eligible for federal crop insurance. The 2014 Farm Bill requires farmers to have up-to-date and accurate information on file for the Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certificate. Growers who are not in compliance will not receive crop insurance premium support for 2016. If growers already have forms on file they are encouraged to make sure their forms are current and accurate.

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