Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member & Seed Related News

The board of directors of the Texas Seed Trade Association will convene their summer meeting on July 8-10, at the Horseshoe Bay Resort near Marble Falls.

HOUSE CHAIRMAN'S OPENING STATEMENT AT MARKUP OF FARM, FOOD & NAT'L SECURITY ACT OF 2024

Source: House Committee on Agriculture news release


WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-15), delivered the following opening remarks at today's full committee markup of H.R. 8467, the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024:


Remarks as prepared for delivery:


Good morning, and welcome to the Committee's consideration of the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024.

When I became Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, I took seriously my mandate to protect our food supply and enhance the impact of our nation's agricultural value chain. Across each title of this bill are new and better tools and resources for our farmers and rural communities. From production and processing, to delivery and consumption, this bill strengthens the rural economy across every region, state, and district.


While a few armchair critics have gotten louder these last few weeks, aiming to divide the Committee and fracture the process that brings about a bipartisan, bicameral Farm Bill, I believe it is important to focus on the substance of the legislation before us today.


Over the past few decades, the farm safety net has lost its ability to protect those who are the backbone of our great nation. American farmers face natural disasters, take huge personal risk, and are at the whims of regulatory overreach. It is a privilege to deliver a farm bill that strengthens the risk mitigation measures available to producers, providing certainty in a time of volatility.

The restoration of the farm safety net does come at a cost, and I have spent a lot of time with the Congressional Budget Office and the Budget Committee to correct erroneous assumptions. The Budget Committee has been a terrific partner, and that work will continue to ensure that not only do we correct those erroneous assessments, but do so in a transparent, judicious manner that restores the farm safety net and integrity to current and future agricultural estimates.

The Farm, Food, and National Security Act also provides historic, long-term investments in conservation programming through a practical reinvestment of Inflation Reduction Act conservation dollars. Reorganizing these dollars allows substantial investment in the voluntary, locally-led, and incentive-based conservation programs that are popular, flexible, and beneficial. As many of you know, the conservation portion of the IRA was not considered by this Committee in 2021, instead $20 billion appeared once the bill moved to the Rules Committee. So today, the bill before us uses those dollars for conservation programming in Title II, something so important to this Committee.

Over the past few weeks, many have voiced concerns about a policy shift that both restores regular order and allows transformational investment in our low-income communities.


For more than 40 years, updates to the Thrifty Food Plan were cost neutral. In 2021, President Biden unilaterally, intentionally--and according to GAO--unlawfully, updated the market basket to no longer be cost neutral, resulting in a $256 billion addition to the farm bill baseline.


The Administration and my Democratic colleagues purport the update was science-based and transparent, and have even gone so far to say that no one can arbitrarily increase SNAP. However, Secretary Vilsack stood by his team as they did just that, through a rushed process devoid of thoroughness and filled with politics.


The TFP update before us does not cater to any one side; it is a balanced approach, forward-looking, underscored by the need for Congress to reassert its authority.


If the benefit must be increased beyond inflation, Congress must consider and execute.


Importantly, and as CBO recognizes, annual cost of living adjustments remain, so SNAP benefits will continue to rise and respond to inflation. Unfortunately, I have learned my Democratic colleagues were led to believe otherwise.


So what does the bill before us do with CBO's assumption--an assumption that allows significant, historic investment in the title, of which has been intentionally ignored?


Republicans are providing additional financial resources across multiple programs that have successfully benefited tribal communities, seniors, and households pursuing healthier options.


Republicans are championing efforts for individuals to remain on their current career pathways without choosing between SNAP and employment or education.


Republicans are correcting a draconian, outdated policy option to now allow all individuals with past drug offenses to receive SNAP, aligning federal policy with the will of dozens of states across the nation.


Republicans are increasing resources available to the Nutrition Assistance Program block grant for Puerto Rico and encouraging both USDA and Puerto Rico to continue to formulate a financially and operationally viable pathway toward a transition from the block grant to SNAP.


And Republicans are holding USDA and the States who administer SNAP accountable to the American taxpayer.


In further efforts to disrupt the process, there has been talk about the movement of money across titles or the longstanding coalition of food and farm advocates. I assume it needs reminding of contemporary farm bills where farmers were stripped of billions in exchange for additional funds in nutrition, or where nutrition saw a 1 percent decrease in the deficit reduction exercise of 2014, yet farmers had to face an astonishing 25 percent cut. So, I have no shame transitioning available resources to the nearly unanimous, bipartisan priorities shared by each of you and incorporated in this bill, including trade promotion, research, and various specialty crop programs.


Each of the titles within this bill are supremely important to our rural communities. Providing access to credit, streamlining policies to provide connectivity to the many, improving precision agriculture, encouraging active forest management and enhancing forest health, creating access to energy system and efficiency updates, protecting plant health and specialty crop competitiveness, and protecting the livestock and poultry industry from catastrophic disease and the inside-the-beltway animal welfare activists, are each worthy topics and policies that demand strong consideration as this markup unfolds.

I firmly believe the legislation before us today restores a robust rural economy, invests in America's farmers, ranchers, and foresters, and bolsters every facet of American agriculture. And having seen the widespread support from stakeholders across this country, I believe we have achieved that goal.


As I said last week, a farm bill has long been an example of consensus, where both sides must take a step off the soapbox and have tough conversations. I do not draw redlines; I do not close the door to conversation. I could not have been clearer throughout this process that I was willing to work with each one of you to find a pathway forward on this bill. I have been here, I have been transparent, and I have been fighting for American agriculture.

Before I close, my appreciation to the staff on both sides of the aisle who have, for the most part, produced the bill text before you. Working in Washington is not easy, and you all have done a tremendous job of ignoring the noise and bringing to life the priorities of the Members you serve. Thank you.

With that, I yield to the distinguished Ranking Member, the gentleman from Georgia.

AG SEC'Y VILSACK SHARPLY CRITICIZES HOUSE' FARM BILL

Agri-Pulse reports:


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sharply criticized House Republicans' proposed farm bill on Wednesday, saying they are relying on "budget gimmicks" to fund legislation that overpromises and won't deliver for producers.


Talking to reporters a day ahead of the scheduled House Agriculture Committee debate on Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson's proposal, Vilsack endorsed an alternative proposal put forth by Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., earlier this month. Vilsack said she has taken a more sensible approach by securing money outside the farm bill to pay for priorities such as increased reference prices.


Stabenow has provided "a practical, doable, get-it-done farm bill in order to move the process, accelerate the process along, basically providing a little bit of everything for everybody," Vilsack said.


In contrast, he said of the House bill, "Creating the false expectation that you can basically please everyone, and then using essentially counterfeit money to do it, I think creates a problem."


Vilsack cited the fact that the Congressional Budget Office has concluded that restricting USDA's authority to use the Commodity Credit Corporation's Section 5 spending authority would save only $8 billion that could be used to pay for increasing reference prices and making other changes to commodity programs. Thompson has insisted the savings are closer to $53 billion.


"So there's quite a delta between an $8 billion CBO, impartially designed and designated score, and the utilization of some budget gimmicks to essentially create sort of counterfeit money if you will, to be able to fit all of the other efforts that this farm bill is proposing," Vilsack said.


To read the entire report click here.


Editor's Note: Many predicted the most political farm bill battle of all time for the current effort and it appears we won't be disappointed. As we have clearly pointed out over the last three years, the amount of money this administration has shelled out through the USDA is unprecedented - and much of it simply given away. Much of it has been targeted at programs that simply don't make a lot of sense to us. In a time when the administration touts food insecurity as an issue yet dedicates grants totaling hundreds of millions for "easing the transition" from conventional farming to organic, resulting in lower yields and less available food - for instance. We understand pandering to your base, and desiring expansion of your base, but it makes one wonder. We follow ag, and feel like we know ag, and can't help but think about the waste of money going on elsewhere in areas we either don't follow closely or don't understand. I don't know if the "savings" referred to above are "only $8B" or are in fact, $53B, but we surely remember when $8B wasn't considered insignificant. Senator Everett Dirksen famously said once, "A billion here, and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."


News Bits


The U.S. International Trade Commission has made affirmative determinations in its preliminary phase antidumping and countervailing duty investigations concerning 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid ("2,4-D") from China and India. 


The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said the decision will impact farmers.


"We are disappointed that ITC did not listen to the feedback from farmers about how harmful these tariffs could be to rural America," said Minnesota farmer and NCGA President Harold Wolle. "Corn prices are already low and input costs have been rising. This decision will only compound our problems."


Six of the nation's major commodity groups, including the National Corn Growers Association, sent a letter to the U.S. International Trade Commission in April encouraging it to vote against advancing a petition.


Growers have said the imports covered by this case are the major sources of supply other than Corteva, which is the only U.S. manufacturer, and that America's farmers cannot rely upon a sole domestic supplier of 2,4-D to meet nearly all the market's needs.


Duties on 2,4-D imports from the two countries would intensify what is already a difficult period for many growers as key input costs continue to increase.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting record-high farm production cash expenses for 2024. At the same time, crop values are declining. USDA projects total cash receipts for crops in 2024 will be 11.7% lower than 2022.


NCGA intends to continue to engage in this case as it goes to the next stage, including the final phase at the U.S. International Trade Commission early next year.


KANSAS WHEAT YIELD PROJECTED HIGHEST SINCE 2021

by Ryan Hanrahan, University of Illinois' FarmDoc project


Reuters' Heather Schlitz reported this past week that "scouts on an annual tour of Kansas wheat fields projected better-than-average yields in the top U.S. winter wheat state, reflecting improved moisture after several years of drought."


"The tour estimated Kansas wheat's yield potential at 46.5 bushels per acre (bpa) after scouting 449 fields over three days," Schlitz reported. "The figure is the highest since 2021 and falls above the five-year tour average of 42.4 bpa from 2018-2023. No tour was held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic."


Progressive Farmer's Jason Jenkins reported this past Friday that "unless conditions deteriorate considerably, this year's Kansas hard red winter wheat crop will substantially surpass the 2023 crop, which was the smallest in more than 50 years. According to Dave Green, Wheat Quality Council executive vice president, the tour estimated a total harvest of 290.4 million bushels, which is 22.4 million bushels more than the 268 million bushels forecast by USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, based on May 1 conditions."


Schlitz added that "wheat quality varied drastically across the state, scouts said. Dryness in some fields caused bald patches; drooping, yellow leaves; and cracked ground. Other fields were green, lush and growing so thick that the ground was barely visible. Scouts noted stripe rust, a yield-robbing disease, in some areas."


"Wheat in the drier south-central and southwestern portions of Kansas was in poorer condition than other areas," Schlitz reported. "Still, scouts said the improved overall harvest prospects offer a welcome reprieve from the drought-hit crops of the last two years."


"Romulo Lollato, Extension wheat and forages specialist at Kansas State University, said that variability has been the theme for this year and the council's tour," Jenkins reported. "'It's the name of the game,' he said. 'Even in eastern Kansas, where there's typically more rainfall, you sample a field that does 25-26 bpa, and then five miles down the road, you get 65 bpa.'"


U.S. Wheat Production Extra Important This Year


Schlitz reported this past week that "U.S. production carries increased significance as poor weather threatens crops in Russia, the world's biggest wheat exporter, lifting K.C. hard red winter wheat futures KWv1 to their highest in nearly eight months this week."


Bloomberg's Michael Hirtzer reported Monday that "with the smaller Russia harvest raising costs for those supplies, that will likely make Kansas wheat a potentially less-expensive alternative in the months ahead."


"'The US should find some additional HRW wheat demand,' Mike O'Dea, a StoneX grain analyst, said, referring to the hard red winter variety," Hirtzer reported. "He said Brazil recently bought a few bulk cargoes of US wheat. The variety was also competitive in shipments into Mexico, the top buyer of American wheat that's nonetheless been increasingly relying on Russia."

Ohalo’s Boosted Breeding Technology Unveiled by David Friedberg - Passing on 100% of the Genes from both Parents

by Max_zero in AgTecher


Boosted breeding, as presented by David Friedberg, is a new agricultural technology developed by Ohalo over the past five years. The central premise behind this technology is that it enables plants to pass on 100% of their genes to their offspring, rather than the traditional 50%. By applying specific proteins to the parent plants, Ohalo’s technology switches off the natural reproductive circuits that cause plants to split their genes. Consequently, the offspring receive all the DNA from both parent plants, resulting in plants with double the genetic material. 


Friedberg explains, “We had this theory that we could change how plants reproduce. If we could do that, then all the genes from the mother and all the genes from the father would combine in the offspring.” This fundamentally alters the genetic landscape, allowing for significant improvements in crop yield and plant health. 


What makes boosted breeding so transformative is its potential to combine all beneficial genes from different parent plants into a single offspring. In traditional plant breeding, it can take decades to achieve a plant that has all the desired genetics for traits like disease resistance and drought tolerance. With boosted breeding, this process is exponentially accelerated. Instead of a random mix of genes, the offspring inherit the full suite of beneficial traits from both parents.


At the heart of Ohalo’s groundbreaking “boosted breeding” technology is an innovative approach to plant reproduction. Traditional breeding methods rely on the unpredictable combination of genes from two parent plants, with each parent contributing half of its genetic material to the offspring. However, the exciting breakthrough from Ohalo changes the game entirely. 


David Friedberg, explains that boosted breeding allows for an offspring to inherit 100% of the genes from both parent plants. By using specific proteins to manipulate the reproductive process, Ohalo has managed to prevent the usual halving of genetic material. This results in offspring that have double the DNA, combining all the beneficial traits of both parents. 


Polyploidy occurs naturally in some plants like wheat, potatoes, and strawberries.


“We theorized that by changing how plants reproduce, we could allow them to pass 100% of their genes to their offspring instead of just half,” Friedberg elaborates. “This means all the genes from both the mother and the father combine in the offspring, leading to significant improvements in crop yield and plant health.” Essentially, this technology ensures that the offspring fully express the range of desirable traits present in both parents. 


This technology, known scientifically as polyploidy, is not entirely new in nature. Polyploidy occurs when organisms, plants in particular, naturally double their sets of chromosomes. For example, humans are diploid with two sets of chromosomes; wheat is hexaploid with six sets. By artificially inducing polyploidy, Ohalo can significantly enhance plant traits, offering a sustainable solution to creating hardier, more productive crops. 


One of the first models used to test this technology was a small weed known as Arabidopsis. “We saw a yield increase of 50 to 100% or more,” notes Friedberg. This initial success set the stage for subsequent tests on staple crops like potatoes, where the results were nothing short of extraordinary. The boosted offspring of these crops demonstrated remarkable increases in size, yield, and disease resistance—all vital factors for agricultural productivity. 


Friedberg’s explanation on the pod highlights the intricate dance of genes that occurs in traditional breeding and how Ohalo’s approach revolutionizes this process. By sidestepping the random assortment of genes, boosted breeding removes the uncertainties that have long plagued plant breeders. Instead of spending decades trying to create the perfect crop through countless genetic crosses, Ohalo’s method allows for immediate combination of all desirable traits, dramatically speeding up the breeding cycle. 


Moreover, each set of genes, akin to tools in a toolbox, equips the plant with better mechanisms to deal with various stresses such as drought or disease. “The more genes the plant has that are beneficial, the more likely it is to keep growing under adverse conditions,” Friedberg points out. This results not only in larger plants but also in more resilient ones, capable of thriving in less-than-ideal environments. 


Through this revolutionary method, seeded plants are more uniform and predictable, paving the way for a more efficient and sustainable agricultural practice. This consistency is crucial not only for maximizing yield but also for simplifying the farming process and developing robust seed industries. 


Ohalo’s boosted breeding is not just a step forward—it’s a leap that has the potential to transform agriculture as we know it, making it possible to produce more food with fewer resources, ensuring food security, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.


Watch the podcast here

Portal eases payment of seed royalties

Annette Scott in Farmer's Weekly (New Zealand)


The launch of an online farm-saved seed royalties payment portal will make it easier for farmers to meet their seed royalty obligations.


Plant Breeding and Research Association (PBRA) general manager Thomas Chin said the payment portal follows extensive consultation and will enable growers to record the amount of seed saved and reused during a production year.


He said members of the grain and seed and plant breeding industry together with Federated Farmers Arable have worked together to introduce the voluntary system to collect royalties on farm-saved seed.


The system is built on new provisions under the recently enacted Plant Variety Rights Act 2022 to ensure fair returns to plant breeders.

Varieties in application for and granted Plant Variety Rights (PVR) will automatically enter the eligibility list.


Under a voluntary declaration, farmers who save and replant PVR-protected seed pay the rights-holder an annual royalty based on usage per calendar year.


The parties have acknowledged that royalties support breeding and varietal improvement.


With the online payment portal growers will log on to a user-friendly web portal, record the quantity of seed saved by variety, complete their details and make secure online payment to the collection entity.


Chin said under the provisions of the Act, breeders of plant varieties are enabled to receive royalties from farmers who save and reuse protected seed varieties. 


To facilitate this, process growers will be asked to voluntarily declare their usage of protected varieties and make corresponding payments.


For the current year, a flat rate royalty payment will apply with the barley seed rate set at $150 a tonne, and for wheat seed $300 a tonne.


These rates will be reviewed annually and published for transparency.


Funds remitted through voluntary declarations are passed on to the relevant plant breeder or rights holder.


These royalties in turn incentivise the research and development of improved cultivars to enhance farm productivity, profitability and sustainability.


Chin said the ability to collect royalties is an important part of ensuring incentives for research and development in plant breeding. 


“Plant breeding delivers traits such as improved disease resistance, enhanced yield and greater tolerance to drought and insects.” 


Royalties will apply only to those farmers who use saved seed varieties that are on the eligible list and protected by law.


Chin said the law recognises that farmers can continue to freely use non-PVR protected or common varieties without paying royalties.


Similar farm-saved seed royalty systems operate worldwide, including in markets NZ often competes in, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark and France.


For more information on farm saved seed royalties and a list of eligible varieties and royalty rates go to: www.farmsavedseed.co.nz


Factoids


WEED SCIENCE SOCIETY REPORTS STERILIZATION TECHNIQUES USED TO CONTROL INSECTS ALSO WORKS ON PLANTS

Source: Weed Science Society of America news release


WESTMINSTER, COLORADO -- Recently published research in the journal Weed Science shows that a sterilization technique commonly used to control insect pests can be modified to control weeds that require pollination to reproduce. More specifically, the researchers determined that employing a sterile pollen technique (SPT) could effectively disrupt Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri S.) reproduction.


Palmer amaranth remains among the most detrimental weeds in North American agriculture, and its resistance to several herbicide groups makes its control a serious challenge. Yet, researchers in this study were able to find a promising new control method for Palmer amaranth and possibly for many other difficult-to-control weeds.


"Our results indicate that SPT, using irradiated pollen, can be a valuable approach for reducing weed-seed production," says Mohsen B. Mesgaran, Ph.D., a plant sciences assistant professor at the University of California Davis, and the article's corresponding author. "SPT also holds potential for broad-spectrum weed control by mixing sterile pollen from multiple weed species in a single application."


Additionally, the researchers found that SPT shows promise for managing troublesome herbicide-resistant weeds that have survived in-season control efforts. "We observed the greatest reduction in seed set when irradiated pollen was introduced to the stigma through artificial pollination prior to open pollination," notes Mesgaran. "It appears that irradiated pollen exerts a preventive effect on naturally occurring pollen that arrives later."


While the researchers determined that a dose of 300 units of ionizing radiation (Gy) strikes the optimal balance to achieve both efficient Palmer amaranth pollination and seed sterility, challenges still remain. For example, irradiated pollen is currently less competitive than naturally occurring pollen. Thus, field managers may need to employ additional measures to successfully control Palmer amaranth with SPT, such as dispersing irradiated pollen in the field before male anthesis and releasing it multiple times.


More information about SPT and Palmer amaranth control can be found in the article, "Exploring sterile pollen technique as a novel tool for management of Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri)." The research is featured in Volume 72, Issue 3 of Weed Science, a Weed Science Society of America journal, published online by Cambridge University Press.


About Weed Science


Weed Science is a journal of the Weed Science Society of America, a nonprofit scientific society focused on weeds and their impact on the environment. The publication presents peer-reviewed original research related to all aspects of weed science, including the biology, ecology, physiology, management and control of weeds. To learn more, visit www.wssa.net.


Editor's Note: The wooly mammoth in the room is "what about the soil seed bank of weed seeds?" How many seasons will it take to significantly draw down the soil seed bank of amaranth seeds, let alone all the others? Until a better idea comes along, however, we'd say let's get to it.

VEGETABLE AVAILABILITY IN THE U.S. CONTINUED ITS 20 YEAR DECLINE

Source: USDA news release


The amount of vegetables available for consumption in the United States decreased 13 percent to 359.1 pounds per capita in 2022 from 413.9 pounds in 2003. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans Healthy Eating Patterns divide vegetables into five subgroups based on their nutrient content: pulses (dry beans, peas, lentils), dark green, other vegetables, red and orange (including tomatoes), and starchy (including potatoes). Each offers an array of important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.


Potatoes and tomatoes were further separated into individual subgroups because of their popularity. Potatoes, tomatoes, and the other vegetables subgroup accounted for the largest shares of the total during the 20-year period at more than 20 percent each. The combined share of starchy (excluding potatoes), tomatoes, other vegetables, and potatoes declined to 78 percent of the total in 2022 from nearly 84 percent in 2003.


Across the last two decades, the combined share of pulses, red and orange (excluding tomatoes), and dark green vegetables available in the U.S. food supply increased to nearly 22 percent from 16 percent of the total. The availability of pulses increased the most during this period, led by a 243-percent jump in dry peas. However, pulses made up less than 3 percent of total vegetable availability in 2022.

Editor's Note: They don't say whether this a good thing or a bad thing. We're guessing a bad thing. Please reference one of the lead articles note where we describe the millions handed out to assist growers to transition from conventional farming to organic production. Doubt if this is cause and effect but does it make sense if veg production is decreasing to further incentivize additional production decreases?

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