|Annual Commodity Classic Event Nears
National Sorghum Producers is gearing up for the annual Commodity Classic, co-hosted with the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. This year’s event will be held in San Antonio, Texas, March 1-4.Make plans to attend or watch on Facebook LIVE the Sorghum General Session Thursday, March 2. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Rick Risby, who will lead you through
opportunity that lies ahead and the silver lining of farming! We’ll also have a panel of leading research experts give an update on the latest known information about sugarcane aphids and how growers can manage the pest in 2017. Producers Shane Beckman – Kansas, Kent Martin – Oklahoma, and Jim Massey – Texas, will give their comprehensive insights into sorghum marketing in this difficult market, and National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust is teaming up with Pheasants Forever CEO Howard Vincent to talk about sorghum as the natural conservation crop and opportunities that exist going forward and in the next farm bill.National Sorghum Producers is also bringing back its renowned Casino Night. The annual Sorghum PAC fundraiser is a must-attend event at Commodity Classic that had record attendance last year with more than $83,000 raised through ticket sales,
sponsorship and auction items, which helps further the legislative and regulatory goals of the sorghum industry. Auction items are available now for bidding here.USGC Membership Meeting, Trade Action Requested
This week, the U.S. Grains Council held its 14th International Marketing Conference and 57th Annual Membership Meeting in Panama City, Panama. Member delegates from the sorghum industry attended the meeting. Adam Baldwin, Sorghum Checkoff director from McPherson, Kansas, and James Born, National Sorghum Producers past chairman and director from Booker, Texas, were each recognized for five years of service with the Council.Grain exports were, of course, a prime topic during the meeting with a focus on concerns from trading partners across the world as a result of recent comments made by President Donald Trump, including a pledge to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. In an interview with Agri-Pulse at the event, the Council’s president and CEO Tom Sleight said maintaining trade relations will take a lot of work going forward.
Reported this week by Agri-Pulse, Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told Trump advisers, goodwill toward America’s farmers needed to take place soon to show work is being done to expand U.S. exports–particularly pointing to negotiating a bilateral agreement with a country like Japan.
With political shakeups in Mexico, China and Japan, three of the most critical countries for U.S. sorghum exports, National Sorghum Producers remains very engaged and will continue to emphasize the importance of trade not only for sorghum producers but farmers and ranchers across America.
House Ag Conducts First Farm Bill Hearing of New Congress
The House Agriculture Committee held its first hearing of the 115th Congress on Wednesday, Feb. 15 to review the many challenges facing farmers in preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill. Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said, “There is a real potential for a crisis in rural America. Net farm income for America’s farmers and ranchers has fallen 50 percent over the past four years with the collapse in commodity prices. As we begin the farm bill process, these economic realities must be front and center.”
One witness, U.S. Department of Agriculture Chief Economist Robert Johansson, said, “With interest rates still low and farmland values declining relatively slowly, farm debt presents a lower risk to the sector than in the 1980s. Current data suggests interest payments on current debt relative to net farm income are at about 20 percent; whereas in 1985 it exceeded 60 percent.” However, Conaway also noted that farmers and ranchers have seen their net income drop 45 percent over the last three years, the largest such drop since the start of the Great Depression.
Senate EPW Discusses ESA
On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to discuss updating the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA, now more than 40 years old, is in need of reforms, according to the hearing witness panel. Specifically, testimony focused on the need to strengthen the ability of federal, state, local, and private forces to best serve the original purpose of what the ESA was implemented to do.
According to one witness, David Freudenthal, former Governor of Wyoming and a U.S. Attorney under President Bill Clinton, “the mix of regulations, court decisions, policy guidance, and individual agency actions by presidential administrations of differing, but still well-intentioned views have created a nearly unworkable system.” He continued saying that it is too easy for parties to petition for a species to be listed under the ESA, which results in a flooded system.
Many Republicans on the committee asked about delisting—the process for removing species from an endangered or threatened status. Most witnesses agreed that the process for delisting takes too long due to litigation. Gordon Myers, President of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies said a solution would start with a restored distinction between threatened and endangered listings.
Related, National Sorghum Producers Chief Executive Officer Tim Lust was interviewed on the Amarillo, Texas radio station KGNC discussing several sorghum issues, including reforming the ESA. To hear the sorghum report, click here.
House Ag Approves Bill Reducing Regulations on Pesticide Use
On Thursday, Feb. 16, the House Agriculture Committee approved HR 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017. The bill amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in an effort to “provide clarification on the use and application of EPA-approved pesticides,” according to a press release by bill sponsor Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio). The bill also amends a 2009 court decision requiring a duplicative and unnecessary National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for pesticides that have already been regulated, tested and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“This is a classic example of why so many Americans are frustrated with Washington,” said Rep. Gibbs. “Bureaucratic red tape is making it more difficult and costly for farmers to responsibly protect their crops.” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) added, “The Agriculture Committee has now passed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act five times. This unnecessary permitting process has not only cost American farmers time and money, it has also had implications for public health. It was never Congress’ intent to create two different permitting requirements. It is time for Congress to finally act to correct a misguided court decision and give farmers and pesticide applicators much-needed relief from this costly and duplicative regulation.” Find more information on HR 953 here.
Scott Pruitt Confirmation for EPA on Horizon
Reports indicate President Trumps pick for Environmental Protection Agency administrator could be in place by the weekend. Scott Pruitt is expected to face fierce opposition by Senate democrats, but there have been no indications he will not be confirmed with the support of republicans and potentially a few democrats.
Secretary of Agriculture pick Sonny Perdue, former Georgia Governor, is still waiting on his confirmation hearing. With the announcement of his appointment not coming until Jan. 19, the Senate Agriculture Committee says it is still waiting to receive the proper paperwork. A hearing is not expected to be scheduled until March, but with outpouring support from industry and republicans and democrats alike, Perdue is expected to receive approval with relative ease.
Bumble Bee Listing Delayed
After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially announced in January the addition of the rusty patched bumble bee to the endangered species list, the service has now pushed the effective date for the listing of the bee from Feb. 10 to March 21. This action is a result of the Trump administration’s order to delay rules for 60 days from the date of the Jan. 20 memorandum.
The species has been identified from Minnesota east to Maine and south to Tennessee and North Carolina and is the first bee species in the continental U.S. to be so listed. The USFWS did single out neonicotinoid insecticides as having a potential impact on species decline, while saying the exact cause is uncertain. However, academic researchers and agricultural organizations called the reasoning behind the agency’s conclusions flawed and contrary to information presented in the proposal. Read NSP’s prior comments on the rusty patched bumble bee here.
Biotech Comment Period Deadline Extended
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has moved the comment deadline back an extra 30 days for its proposed rule to revise regulations on the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms. The original comment period was slated for May 19 but is now extended to June 19. View the proposed rule and submit comments here.
Exports were very strong this week with China, Japan, Mexico and South Africa committing to purchase 5.3 million bushels. This is the first commitment by South Africa this year, and the purchase brings the total participants in the U.S. sorghum market to eight. Shipments were also strong, with the same countries that committed purchases taking delivery of 6.0 million bushels. Total commitments and shipments now total 133 million bushels and 91 million bushels, respectively. Gulf prices are still relatively flat compared to corn but are markedly stronger than interior bids. Sorghum for February or March delivery is priced at $4.25 per bushel at the Gulf Coast. This price indicates export demand is still firm.
To read more on actions leading to South Africa’s purchase of U.S. sorghum, click here.
Sorghum in the Spotlight:
Feb.21 South Plains Profitability Workshop, Lubbock, Texas
Feb.23 Senate Agricultural Committee Public Hearing, Manhattan, KS
Feb.23-24 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Arlington, Virginia
March 1-4 2017 Commodity Classic, San Antonio, Texas
March 2 Commodity Classic Sorghum General Session, San Antonio, Texas
March 3-4 Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, Memphis, Tennessee
For a full view of calendar events, visit the NSP website calendar.
Market News – To view this week’s Gulf export grain report, click here.
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Sorghum producers can also receive monthly e-newsletters from the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. To receive monthly news and information regarding the Sorghum Checkoff’s efforts in sorghum research, education and market development, sign up here. You can also follow the Sorghum Checkoff on Twitter @SorghumCheckoff.