Gene-edited Ethiopian ‘teff’ grain with 25% higher yield will not be regulated, USDA determines
TSTA Weekly Update, 04/13/2023
Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association
We are sorry the Weekly Update was a bit late this week! Our intention is always to deliver the newsletter to your inbox during normal business hours every Thursday. An unexpected meeting in San Angelo interfered with our normal plans today and resulted in a slight delay. Thank you for your understanding!
TSTA legislative update
The Texas House passed their version of the state budget late last Thursday. The House version of the budget includes the emergency exceptional item allocating $15M towards the reconstruction of the Texas Foundation Seed facilities at Vernon. TSTA staff is now concentrating on the Senate version.
The "Right-to-Farm" bill passed the House and now it's on to the Texas Senate.
H-2A News Reprinted from the Illinois Seed Trade Association newsletter
On March 28th the Agricultural Workforce Coalition (AWC) issued a letter addressed to Congressional Leaders in Washington regarding changes the Department of Labor has made to the H2A program. Changes in the fee structure, fees that apply in the event of an extended season and job coding concerns have prompted the letter. The AWC is calling for resolutions to disapprove of the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) new and harmful H-2A regulation, entitled, “Adverse Effect Wage Rate Methodology for the Temporary Employment of H-2A Nonimmigrants in Non-Range Occupations in the United States.” In the letter the AWC states that "The DOL’s regulation comes at a time when American farmers are reeling due to record high costs of production that have translated into thin and even negative margins, conditions the new regulation will greatly exacerbate. Moreover, the regulation further complicates an already complex program and creates legal uncertainty for farmers who comply with requirements in good faith. The Department of Labor has also managed to develop a regulation that it, too, will have great difficulty administering, making the program even more cumbersome for farmers, many of whom produce perishable goods whose handling cannot wait on a bureaucracy." To read more see the letter posted on the AWC Website.
Editor's Note: TSTA staff will be investigating the new policies further and facilitating a message and a method to communicate with your Member of Congress regarding this unfortunate development.
The Texas Seed Trade Association signed a national letter of support for the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU). APLU is asking membership organizations such as Texas A&M AgriLife Research to contact state-based stakeholder groups and see if they would be willing to sign a letter of support. The letter requests funding for the Research Facilities Act which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill.
In the 2023 Farm Bill, the letter is requesting $5 billion in mandatory funds. Currently, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association has signed on along with many national associations.
Growout invoices were mailed in late January. If you have not already returned payment for the winter growouts please remit soon. We've paid all the bills for land rent, TDA expenses, seed shipment, phytosanitaries, local transportation and the cash flow would be very helpful. Thank you!
Time to let us know if you want to attend the Sod Poodles game! On June 2, the Texas Seed Trade Association will host a gathering at the Amarillo Sod Poodles, a Double A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Poodles are playing the Springfield Cardinals that evening, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball club. We've got a box reserved and it'll be a great time for a lucky 25 of us. It's $25 to reserve a place and we'll book the first 25 that respond and send in their hard-earned cash. Please contact Drew Morano at Tri-Cal Superior Forages or Brett Bamert at Bamert Seeds if you're interested in playing some golf that morning or afternoon. You can respond to either the Sod Poodles or golf event via return email to this newsletter. If you need a hotel room we can furnish that information.
In an effort to update and maintain our membership records we request you take a few moments and fill out the very brief info request at the following link.
The link is secure and the information will be used internally by the Texas Seed Trade Association and never shared without your permission. This request is on behalf of your association's board of directors and officers and we greatly appreciate your cooperation. Thank you!
4/13/2023 - If you have not updated your information please take a moment and do so now. We appreciate it! We continue to update this database and need your input!
Source: Oklahoma Farm Report
U.S. winter wheat condition, already the lowest in decades, dropped another point last week, USDA NASS reported in its weekly Crop Progress Report on Monday.
Nationwide, winter wheat was rated 27 percent good to excellent, down one percentage point from 28 percent the previous week and five percentage points below last year's rating at this time of 32 percent. The current rating is tied with 1996 for the lowest in four decades.
The three major Southern Plains Hard Red Winter Wheat Crop slipped further in this latest report- Kansas dropped three points to 13 percent good to excellent, Oklahoma is now at 20 percent good to excellent- down six points from last week and Texas is at 17% good to excellent- off one point.
Editor's Note: Staff has recently traveled through much of Oklahoma and their wheat looks significantly better than Texas".
Brookings, SD, Millborn Seeds has completed the acquisition of State Line Seed Company and will look to expand production in the facility in 2023 and beyond.
USDA/AMS clarifies varietal labeling requirements of the Federal Seed Act to enhance transparency for growers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today reiterates its standing policy related to varietal labeling requirements for agricultural and vegetable seed shipped in interstate commerce. AMS’s policy is based on requirements of the Federal Seed Act (FSA) (7 U.S.C. 1551-1611), a truth-in-labeling law that regulates the labeling of seed in interstate and foreign commerce. The FSA does not regulate seed that is grown, conditioned, and traded within individual States. This policy statement makes clear that AMS views false advertising and mislabeling of seed varietal names as serious violations of the FSA.
Periodically, AMS receives questions from seed businesses and customers related to varietal labeling requirements. The most common question is whether varietal names are required on vegetable and agricultural seed. For vegetable seed shipped in interstate commerce, the seed must be labeled with kind and variety name. There is no exception to this requirement.
Agricultural seed has three options for labeling: (1) kind name; (2) kind and variety name; or (3) kind name and the words “variety not stated”. The “variety not stated” description only applies to 37 agricultural seed kinds (§201.10). The 37 agricultural seed kinds are: Alfalfa; Bahiagrass; Barley; Bean, field; Beet, field; Brome, smooth; Broomcorn; Clover, crimson; Clover, red; Clover, white; Corn, field; Corn, pop; Cotton; Cowpea; Crambe; Fescue, tall; Flax; Lespedeza, striate; Millet, foxtail; Millet, pearl; Oat; Pea, field; Peanut; Radish; Rice; Rye; Safflower; Sorghum; Sorghum-sudangrass; Soybean; Sudangrass; Sunflower; Tobacco; Trefoil, birdsfoot; Triticale; Wheat, common; and Wheat, durum.
The second most common question involves the proper use of Brand names. Brand names may be associated with the name of the kind or variety of seed; however, the Brand must be clearly identified as not being the kind or variety name. For example, ABC123 Brand sweet corn may not be advertised in a way that creates the impression that ABC123 is a kind or variety name. In this example, the word “Brand” after the word “ABC123” is sufficient to distinguish the Brand.
In addition, if seed advertised under a Brand name is a mixture of varieties and if the variety names are not stated in the advertising, a varietal description or a comparison with a named variety cannot be used if it creates the impression that the seed is of a single or known variety. AMS underscores the importance of avoiding representations that may claim or give the impression that seed Brands add diversification for a grower when that representation is false or misleading. AMS invites the reporting of complaints or tips to farmerfairness.gov or directly to AMS’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division, contact below.
Kind and variety information is important to farmers purchasing seeds. The Federal Seed Act regulations require seed kind and varietal information to be printed on seed containers, or labels, in a form that is clearly legible. This requirement allows a purchaser of seed to make reasoned and informed decisions. AMS expects farmers to be informed of kind and variety at the earliest opportunity, usually at the time of purchase and no later than the commencement of shipment. This can be accomplished by allowing the grower to physically review the seed container and its label, by making the labeled claims easily accessible to the grower (e.g., a link to an image of the actual label), or through other appropriate means.
AMS is committed to the enforcement of the varietal labeling provisions of the FSA and, through Section 409 of the FSA (7 U.S.C. 1599), the USDA is authorized to initiate administrative proceedings against anyone who violates any FSA provision or regulation. Enforcement outcomes may range from cease-and-desist orders and monetary penalties to seizure of the seed and criminal sanction in the federal court system. Anyone with knowledge of potential violations of the FSA is encouraged to report them to AMS.
Please contact AMS’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division Director, Ernest Allen, at or (704) 810-8884 for additional information and questions.
Gene-edited Ethiopian ‘teff’ grain with 25% higher yield will not be regulated, USDA determines
A pre-market regulatory status review conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has concluded that teff modified by genome editing to have a semi-dwarf stature is not subject to biotechnology regulation under USDA’s SECURE Rule.
The new semi-dwarf teff was developed by researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center’s Institute for International Crop Improvement (IICI), who are collaborating with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research to improve teff productivity using new plant breeding techniques. The reduced height of the new teff lines is expected to provide resistance to lodging (falling over) that results in yield losses of up to 25%.
Lodging in teff, which causes the plants to bend or break because of wind or heavy rain, can significantly reduce harvestable yield of the grains and makes the plant more susceptible to diseases and pests. This can lead to reduced grain quality, such as lower protein content and increased levels of contaminants.
“I grew up on a farm in Ethiopia and know first-hand that if we succeed, the benefits will be immense for our farmers,” said the IICI’s Senior Manager, Regulatory Science, Getu Beyene Duguma, PhD.
Comparison of plant heights of unmodiﬁed Teﬀ with edited lines containing various combinations of knockout mutations in genes controlling plant height.
Teff is a small grain native to Ethiopia, where it is a staple food for millions and is estimated to provide up to two-thirds of the protein and dietary fiber consumed in the country. In addition to being a staple food for Ethiopians, teff is also an important source of income for many small-scale farmers in the country.
Teff has gained popularity worldwide due to its many health benefits and culinary versatility. It is a nutrient-dense grain that is high in protein, fiber, and several important minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Teff is also gluten-free, making it a great option for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Teff production in the western United States, primarily in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon, has been increasing in recent years because of a growing demand for gluten-free and healthful grains.
“We are greatly encouraged by this USDA decision as it establishes an important precedent for future teff plant breeding innovations to tackle productivity constraints, such as pod shattering, small grain size, weed control, and climate change,” said Donald MacKenzie, PhD, executive director of IICI. “Our semi-dwarf teff lines will be undergoing field performance evaluation this year at the Danforth Center’s field research site.”
National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) reports:
President Biden vetoed the Congressional Review Act joint resolution that would have overturned the Environmental Protection Agency's overreaching Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The CRA was a bipartisan, bicameral effort by Congress to halt implementation of the flawed rule.
Following the veto, American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a press release, "This veto flies in the face of President Biden's promise to support farmers and ranchers. This rule is a clear case of government overreach that leaves farmers wondering whether they can farm their own land. It's a shame the President is standing with bureaucrats instead of with the people who stock America's pantries.
"The President's decision to disregard the bipartisan will of Congress also causes farmers, ranchers and all Americans to doubt his often-repeated commitment to work with Congress when Members come together on a bipartisan basis. They did so and he rejected their will with the stroke of a pen. Mr. President, you let us down."
The Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval passed in the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of 53-43 and passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support by a vote of 227-198.
Editor's Note: First passed under the Obama administration, WOTUS is perhaps the most far-reaching (over-reaching) legislation and rule making ever to jeopardize your farming operations. We have written extensively on WOTUS and if you have not already familiarized yourself with its implications please do. And please see article below concerning a recent court order delaying implementation of WOTUS. WOTUS went away under the Trump administration only to be resuscitated by the Biden administration. The WOTUS overreach is rivaled by the new US EPA tailpipe emission standards, revised rule-making, announced this week that will mandate electric vehicles make up two-third of new vehicle sales by 2032.
Source: National Cattlemen's Beef Association news release
WASHINGTON - Today, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) praised the decision by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota to grant a preliminary injunction stopping the Biden administration's "Waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule from taking effect in 24 states. Combined with a previous ruling in the Southern District of Texas, 26 states across the country are protected from the Biden WOTUS rule.
"Once again, the courts have affirmed that the Biden administration's WOTUS rule is overreaching and harmful to America's beef farmers and ranchers," said NCBA President Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota cattle producer. "Cattle producers in 26 states now have some additional certainty while this rule is being litigated and we are optimistic that the Supreme Court will provide nationwide clarity on the federal government's proper jurisdiction over water."
This injunction was granted thanks to a lawsuit filed by 24 state attorneys general seeking to overturn the WOTUS rule. In total, NCBA and its litigation partners have secured preliminary injunctions in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. NCBA's motion for a nationwide injunction is still pending in the North Dakota court.
Source: USDA news release
WASHINGTON, - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced details around its $75 million investment in conservation assistance for producers transitioning to organic production. As part of the multi-agency Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will dedicate financial and technical assistance to a new organic management standard and partner with new organic technical experts to increase staff capacity and expertise.
The investment, which includes funds from the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), will help build new and better markets and income streams, strengthen local and regional food systems and increase affordable food supply for more Americans, while promoting climate-smart agriculture and ensuring equity for all producers.
"Producers transitioning to organic can count on NRCS for assistance through the process," said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. "By strengthening our technical proficiency and providing technical and financial assistance through new tools and practices, we can better support producers through the challenges of organic transition."
NRCS will help producers adopt the new organic management standard, which allows flexibility for producers to get the assistance and education they need such as attending workshops or requesting help from experts or mentors. It supports conservation practices required for organic certification and may provide foregone income reimbursement for dips in production during the transition period.
Higher payment rates and other options are available for underserved producers including socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran, and limited resource farmers and ranchers.
Editor's Note: At time when grocery prices are near an all time high, food "deserts" are appearing in large metro areas, and the federal government complains of widespread "food insecurity," your tax dollars are being utilized to transition farmers into less productive practices. This is irresponsible at best.