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May 18

TSTA Weekly Update, 05/18/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


If you missed the opportunity to participate in the recent ASTA-sponsored webinar on the Biden Administration's recent seed competition report please contact us directly if you are interested in listening to the content. It is limited to ASTA member companies.


Our take on the content, hosted by ASTA's Andy LaVigne, presented by Gary Kushner, Hogan Lovells: Overview of USDA Seed Competition Report, Teresa Lavenue, Hogan Lovells: Specific IP Recommendations and Potential Implications, and Logan Breed, Hogan Lovells: Specific Antitrust Recommendations and Potential Implications, is that we're in a "wait & see" mode. There are some very far-reaching, and potentially troublesome, conclusions in the report but it is yet unclear what remedies the Biden administration may have in mind.


It seems that seed prices are up commensurate with seed company consolidation and therefore there must be a correlation between the two. Our worry is that price controls may be a very real possibility along with more relaxed variety protection standards in order to foster additional seed producers and competition.


Apparently the only legally defensible reason for the Justice Department to justify a correlation between higher prices and seed company consolidation is to demonstrate collusion - price fixing. According to Logan Breed that's a pretty high standard to prove. Our worry is the Justice Department won't be burdened by having to demonstrate collusion but will simply use the existing corollary, higher prices/higher consolidation, as reason enough to take action. This is essentially what the the Justice Department did with regard to the meat packing/processing industry that is, evidently, serving as something of a model for future actions such as for the seed industry.


It is interesting to note that since the punitive regulatory actions against the meat processors at least one, Tyson, is in some financial difficulty their stock and margins eroding by nearly half over the last year. Some great result of collusion huh? And for the record, Tyson, and other meat packers were only accused of price fixing; it was never demonstrated but regulations poured forth regardless. Tyson's decreased fortunes are hardly the result of an antitrust conspiracy. Factually, markets are/were distorted during the "pandemic" for a variety of reasons and agricultural production has always been cyclical.


We'd suppose there's as much corporate conspiracy within the seed business as there is in the meat packing business - zero. But stay tuned as a "fix" is surely coming.


Our thanks to ASTA for sponsoring this event!

A meeting of the TSTA Board of Directors is scheduled for July 13-15, at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. If you have questions please contact the TSTA office.


Surveys to ascertain the level of certified wheat seed carryover from last year, anticipated certified wheat that will be available for sale this year, and a ranking of the most favored/best suited varieties was mailed to over 100 Texas seed sellers this week by the TSTA. Mailings included self-addressed, stamped envelopes, for return of the surveys to the association office. The survey is designed to assist the Texas Foundation Seed Service, and others, to determine the potential need to enter a recertification process. Results will be made available as soon as possible.

TSTA Legislative Update

TSTA staff


The right to farm legislation by Representative DeWayne Burns and Senator Charles Perry has been sent to the Governor having passed the Texas House and Senate this session. This bill serves to preempt and/or limit local ordinances that strive to control agricultural production and private property rights within municipal jurisdictions. Upon the Governor’s approval this state policy gives needed protections to farm and ranch operations throughout Texas as the population merges into established agriculturally-based areas.


The supplemental appropriation bill that includes the $15 million to rebuild the Foundation Seed facility in Vernon remains in conference committee as the House and Senate conferees discuss the differences in funding requests by each body. Conference Committee Reports have deadlines for printing, distributing and approval looming as Sine Die is slated for May 29th ending the 88th Regular Legislative Session.


We're full-up for 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 the lucky 25 of us. It's $25 and we've reserved the first 25 that responded. Thank you!


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!


5/18/2023 - 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!

News Bits


House GOP appropriators have proposed to slash fiscal 2024 funding for USDA by one-third, in part by eliminating some climate-related funding, restricting Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's use of the Commodity Credit Corp. spending authority and expanding work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.


To read the entire report click here.


Editor's Note: This should not come as a surprise as the Biden Administration has dramatically increased funding, through the USDA, for what some might consider, questionable items. Among those questionable items is the unprecedented cash dedicated to "transitioning to organic farming" from conventional practices. One has to wonder how that improves U.S. food security or lowers prices at the grocery store - both stated goals of this administration.


The USDA recently released a "map of socially disadvantaged farm operations. The survey took only race and ethnicity into account (not income or any productivity index) and presupposed that as members of these ethnic groups these farmers have been "subject to racial or ethnic prejudice." We predict a forthcoming program marketed as a solution to a problem that has not been quantified or otherwise shown to be an actual problem. We chose not to reproduce the "findings" here due to the total lack of objectivity and meaning within the USDA press release.


Despite rain in some key growing states, farmers were still able to make solid planting progress this past week. There is more rain in the forecast in parts of the US for the upcoming week.


The USDA says 65% of U.S. corn is planted, compared to 49% a week ago, and the five-year average of 59%, with 30% emerged, compared to 25% on average.


49% of soybeans are planted as of Sunday, compared to 35% last week and 36% on average, with 20% emerged, compared to 11% typically in mid-May.


29% of the winter wheat crop is in good to excellent condition, steady with last week, and 49% has headed, compared to 48% on average.


40% of spring wheat is planted, compared to 57% normally this time of year due to wet weather in the northern Plains, with 13% emerged, compared to 23% on average.


35% of cotton is planted, compared to the five-year average of 36%.


83% of rice is planted and 65% has emerged, both well ahead of their average pace. 70% of the crop is rated good to excellent.


28% of sorghum has been planted, on par with the 5-year average.


34% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are in good to excellent shape, a slight improvement from last week's rating.


Joe Janzen, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. University of Illinois has issued a revised forecast for new crop corn that is 27% below last year's (old crop) price.


Broadly speaking, prospects have coalesced around an inverted market structure with new-crop corn and soybean prices much lower than old-crop values. USDA projections for 2023/24 supply and demand support a return to prices near long-run average levels (See: farmdoc daily May 31, 2022), especially for corn. As planting ends and the growing season begins in earnest throughout the US Corn Belt, future price changes will be based on deviations from these expectations.



To read the entire report click here>


Editor's Note: We understand we don't produce a significant amount of corn seed in Texas and our overall corn acreage is less than 1M acres. However, it would be accurate to say that corn prices, and the factors that influence it, affect virtually every crop our customers grow.


WinField United and Northern Star Integrated Services LLC announce an expanded forage and cover crop seed development and production collaboration. The collaboration builds on the existing relationship between WinField United and Northern Star and will begin with infusing triticale seed genetics into the CROPLAN® and Armor® seed brands.


Recent advancements in the breeding of sorghum crop: current status and future strategies for marker-assisted breeding


Read the article here

A brand new screening method to boost plant breeding

DLF Denmark


What do you get when you combine a genetic "haystack" with powerful sequencing technology? DLF's NimScout method - finding needles in a flash! Over 150 game-changing mutations have been discovered in ryegrass and alfalfa. Let's see what this can do for the future of farming!


DLF’s R&D team has developed a method called NimScout for our forage programmes to almost instantly find needles in a complex genetic “haystack” by using the most powerful sequencing technologies.

NimScout (Novel Induced Mutation Scouting) is a non-GMO approach that facilitates identifying the one specific genetic change among millions in the plant genome that may improve yield, quality, disease tolerance or stress tolerance.


The technology is already been applied on two DLF proprietary mutant collections of annual ryegrass and alfalfa and has revealed more than 150 interesting mutations waiting to be used in future products. In the next phase, researchers will identify lead plants with positive effects on yields, forage quality and climate mitigation.


Visit here


by Bill Biedermann is a co-founder of AgMarket.Net as it appeared on


The economic environment that we are in today is very similar to the 1970s and into the mid-80s. During that time many farmers went broke and, in the process, learned two lessons.


Before I get to the lessons, look at this:


Rampant inflation in the 70s into the early 1980s occurred. CPI rose from 4.2% going into 1970 to 12.3% (+129%) in 1974 to 14.4% in 1980 (+242%) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CPI has risen from 0.1% in 2020 to 9.1% in 2022 (+91%).


Following that era, the Federal Reserve Bank reversed policy to bring inflation under control and primarily used higher interest rates to accomplish this. This caused the housing market to slow (sound familiar?).


Fed policy eventually cause corporate earnings to shrink, and layoffs were announced. That has already happened, and these announcements should begin to show up in the July or August statistics. Eventually, consumer spending peaked, and trading funds bought T Bills and bonds instead of speculative inflation-based food and fuel positions. That is happening in today's market also.


These reactions to Fed policy combined with bigger agricultural production in 1984+ and stabilizing ending stocks, caused farm prices to fall. That could happen in 2023-24.


As a result of investor money headed to the T Bill market and farm purchasing power shrinking, collateral:loan and revenue:loan ratios collapsed and caused an agricultural banking crisis. Land prices fell 43.2% from the 1982 peak to the 1987 low. The agricultural collapse of the '80s was the worst agricultural economic era since the great depression.


During that time, many of your fathers and grandfathers went broke, might have been forced to sell some land in order to survive, or simply pushed through it and got to the other side. A few were able to take advantage of the collapse and turn adversity into opportunity.


NOW...The Two Lessons Learned:


click here.

Sorghum seed production companies and commodity group at the forefront of new opportunities in the global sorghum industry - Global Sorghum Conference to explore and promote sorghum’s role in world-wide food and feed systems

Sorghum Checkoff release


Montpellier, France


Two European sorghum seed production companies, as well as the leading sorghum commodity group in the United States, are lending their support to the upcoming 2023 Sorghum in the 21st Century Global Sorghum Conference set to take place June 5-9, 2023, in Montpellier, France. The conference will promote how sorghum, an important cereal grain grown in many regions around the world, is contributing to more resilient and sustainable food and feed value chains.


Alta SeedsLidea, and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program are Gold-level sponsors for the conference, which will bring together international specialists in the fields of genetics and genomics, plant breeding, sustainable farming systems, post-harvest solutions, and product development to identify key solutions to some of the most urgent challenges facing agriculture and food security today. Conference organizers expect participation from every major sorghum-producing region in the world.


“As an organization committed to advancing the sorghum industry, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program recognizes the immense value of the 2023 Global Sorghum Conference. This gathering of industry leaders, researchers, and policymakers provides a unique opportunity to share knowledge, discuss challenges, and explore innovative solutions that will shape the future of sorghum production and utilization worldwide,” said Norma Ritz Johnson, Executive Director of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program.

The conference will focus on both research and the private sector, with opportunities to foster partnerships and to network across sectors. Sessions include topics such as defining sorghum’s role in regenerating soil health and enhancing the sustainability of global farming systems as well as capturing sorghum’s genetic potential in responding to climatic and environmental challenges.


Johnson said sorghum’s versatility and sustainable qualities make it a crucial crop for a sustainable future, serving as a reliable source of feed, food, and fuel for the global food system and “millions” around the world.

“The global sorghum community must come together now to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead. The 2023 Global Sorghum Conference is a crucial platform for us to collaborate and drive progress towards a sustainable and prosperous future for sorghum,” said Johnson.

In addition to the three Gold Sponsors, the Global Sorghum Conference is supported by several Silver Sponsors, including the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Corteva Agriscience, KWS, the McKnight Foundation’s Global Collaboration for Resilient Food Systems program, OZ Sorghum, Semences de Provence, Sorghum ID, and Texas Tech University.


The lead sponsor for the conference is Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture.


The conference is organized by France’s Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) and a consortium of global research and development institutions, including the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet (SMIL), SorghumID, the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), and the Centre d’Étude Régional pour l’Amélioration de l’Adaption à la Sécheresse (CERAAS), and is supported by the International Sorghum Task Force (ITSF).


More information about registration, speakers, and events associated with the Global Sorghum Conference can be found at



From "Wired"


A gene-editing startup wants to help you eat healthier salads. This month, North Carolina–based Pairwise is rolling out a new type of mustard greens engineered to be less bitter than the original plant. The vegetable is the first Crispr-edited food to hit the US market.


Mustard greens are packed with vitamins and minerals but have a strong peppery flavor when eaten raw. To make them more palatable, they're usually cooked. Pairwise wanted to retain the health benefits of mustard greens but make them tastier to the average shopper, so scientists at the company used the DNA-editing tool Crispr to remove a gene responsible for their pungency. The company hopes consumers will opt for its greens over less nutritious ones like iceberg and butter lettuce.


“We basically created a new category of salad,” says Tom Adams, cofounder and CEO of Pairwise. The greens will initially be available in select restaurants and other outlets in the Minneapolis–St. Paul region, St. Louis, and Springfield, Massachusetts. The company plans to start stocking the greens in grocery stores this summer, likely in the Pacific Northwest first.


A US company is trying to trademark the shape of its lettuce – but this is just the tip of the iceberg

Arwa Mahdawi from The Guardian


Our thanks to SIPA for passing this along!


Hannah Gadsby, a feted, award-winning comedian, has curated an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, about Pablo Picasso’s complicated legacy, called It’s Pablo-matic. This has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand – which is lettuce. Rather, I am alerting you to the exhibition because it’s proof that terrible puns are now high art. Bear this in mind as I proceed to make as many terrible leaf puns as I can in the next few paragraphs.


OK, lettuce get back to the point. A US company called Little Leaf Farms is trying to trademark the curvy shape of its baby crispy green leaf lettuce. Is this some kind of GM-nightmare leaf, you might be wondering? Has big lettuce deviously planted cells in order to create a super-curvy salad? I wouldn’t rule it out, but in this instance it seems the lettuce’s shape is natural and the result of a particular seed being grown in a way that results in ruffled edges. Can you trademark that? US trademark experts seem to think it’s a long shot, but possible.


But this is just the tip of the iceberg, isn’t it? Please romaine calm, but we live in a world where absolutely anything can be commoditised, monetised, trademarked and privatised. If you make a joke on the internet and it goes viral, for example, it’s almost guaranteed that someone will try to profit from it. Just ask Dan Atkinson, who coined a (little) gem of a pun, “Wagatha Christie”, and then, three years later, discovered that Rebekah Vardy had trademarked the phrase so that, if she feels like it, she can slap it on a line of branded meat tenderisers.


While that sounds brazen, it’s nothing compared with the musician Drake, who trademarked “God’s Plan”, the title of one of his songs and a commonplace phrase, so that he could put it on cardigans. Nothing is sacred these days, not even salad.


Source: University of Illinois


Let's say you're a corn grower farming on low-fertility soil. How do you go about making that soil healthier and more fertile? Many farmers think if they add plenty of nitrogen fertilizer, that nutrient, along with carbon, will be stored in the soil as organic matter when microbes decompose crop residue. But new research from the University of Illinois suggests those efforts might not work for poor soils.


The new study, published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, compared corn residue decomposition in high- and low-fertility, with and without nitrogen fertilizers. The results came as a surprise.


"Corn residue decomposed significantly faster in poor, low-nitrogen-supplying soils compared to a fertile soil, especially when we added nitrogen, which stimulated microbial activity. It was a surprise, based on our earlier findings that showed high-nitrogen corn residue broke down faster," said study author Tanjila Jesmin, doctoral researcher in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES), part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at U of I.


Richard Mulvaney, professor in NRES and study co-author, explained poor soils have fewer aggregate particles, small craggy nuggets that house soil microbes and give soil its structure. With fewer aggregates, free-wheeling microbes roam loose in the soil, encountering carbon more frequently, gobbling it up, and creating carbon dioxide as a byproduct.


"In a poor soil with less aggregate stability, microbes have greater access to the residues and the carbon. And when there's a high nitrogen supply, they also have a high demand for carbon as an energy source. Eventually, their demand may exceed the carbon supply in residues, which may cause them to attack organic matter in the soil," Mulvaney said. "The microbes just keep burning it and evolving more carbon dioxide. It's a downward spiral."


To learn how soils of contrasting fertility mineralized carbon in the presence of corn residue, Jesmin performed a soil incubation study in the lab. She collected two soils of the same type from production fields in Central Illinois, one with high native nitrogen content and one depleted in nitrogen after 70 years of continuous cropping. She also collected corn residues from a single field; this time, the corn tissue didn't differ in terms of nitrogen content.


Jesmin incubated the soils in jars after applying different combinations of corn residues and one of two fertilizers: potassium nitrate or ammonium sulfate. She monitored continuous carbon dioxide emissions and intermittent changes in microbial activities from the incubation jars over a two-month period as a measure of microbial carbon mineralization.


"Fertilizer increased residue decomposition rates for both soils, but the fertilizer types behaved differently according to soil fertility," Jesmin said. "Potassium nitrate was more effective for increasing the residue decomposition rate in low-nitrogen soil, whereas ammonium sulfate had a greater effect in the high-nitrogen soil."


Jesmin also noted an acidification effect of fertilizer in the low-nitrogen soil, an issue that can limit roots' access to essential nutrients and deepen the downward spiral for poor soils.


"For me, the striking message from this paper is that it's not possible to improve low fertility soil by applying more fertilizer nitrogen to grow more residues. You can put nitrogen in the soil, but you can't keep it," Mulvaney said.


He added nitrogen management could potentially make a difference in low-fertility soils, for example applying fertilizer during the growing season as crops demand it. He also suggested reducing tillage intensity.


"Tillage, of course, is a factor that promotes mineralization, carbon dioxide production, and residue decomposition. Maybe if you go to a system like no-till, that could be useful for reducing microbial activities and their access to those residue carbon sources," he said. "It might help."


Editor's Note: To the best of our knowledge there is no differentiation between soil types relative to enrolling, and participating, in a carbon sequestration program. According to this study there perhaps should be. There is certainly a great deal we do not yet understand about sequestering carbon in agricultural soils - including its impact on decreasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.


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The articles, views, and opinions expressed in the Weekly Update do not necessarily reflect the policies of the Texas Seed Trade Association or the opinions of its members.