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Oct 12

TSTA Weekly Update, 10/12/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


Membership renewals for 2023-2024 have been mailed, please look for them! And thank you to those who have already returned renewals!


Growout season is close! Please download a growout intention survey here and return it to the TSTA office via email attachment. It's important to have a reasonable idea of the acreage we'll be needing this winter.


Last year's growouts in Costa Rica were the best ever and the Gan Eden Farm in Puerto Rico does a great job year after year. Send your seed to either, or both, locations with confidence.


Please note that the TSTA Board of Directors has approved a policy whereby no company's seed may be entered into growouts if the invoice for that company's previous year's entries has not been satisfactorily settled.


Join the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) this December 5 - 8, 2023 at our NEW venue, the Hyatt Regency Orlando, for the Field Crop Seed Convention, an unparalleled seed business networking and educational opportunity. Gathering over 2,000 attendees from 36 countries, the Field Crop Seed Convention (formerly known as the CSS & Seed Expo) is THE place to see and be seen amongst the global community of companies working in all field crops, from corn and soybean, to wheat, rice, cotton, sorghum and so much more. Now in Orlando, after 77 years in Chicago, our new venue offers any and all seed industry stakeholders a wealth of new opportunities, in a central hub of exhibits, sessions and private meeting rooms all in one combined meeting space area. 

Visit the conference home page to learn more


The 35th Annual Texas Plant Protection Conference will be December 5 & 6 at the Brazos Center in Bryan, Texas. Click here for more info and to register


The Western Seed Association annual meeting is now accepting registrations. Click here to register.

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!


10/12/2023 - 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: The Daily Scoop news release


On Wednesday afternoon, House Republicans nominated Steve Scalise to be the next speaker by a vote of 113 to 99 - a week after the unprecedented ousting of Kevin McCarthy.


Scalise, the second-ranking House Republican, defeated a challenge from GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the judiciary committee.


To become speaker, Scalise will need to win the vote of a majority of the entire chamber -- which is currently 217 -- in order to secure the speaker's gavel on the floor.


One question now is whether Republicans will coalesce around Scalise in a House floor vote for the speakership. Media reports say Scalise is short of the votes he needs to win.


A vote could come as early as Thursday.


The Farm Bill Flounders


For all practical purposes, work by the House or Senate Agriculture Committee on a new farm bill is essentially stalled, Randy Russell, The Russell Group, told AgriTalk Host Chip Flory on Tuesday afternoon.


"I am still hopeful that we make some progress this year and finish it next year, but I think we are absolutely faced with an extension situation," Russell said.


"(Once a speaker is selected) they've got to go back and deal with passing appropriation bills," he added. "And let's not forget, we're weeks away from November 17 when we're going to face a potential government shutdown. So, I think that appropriations will be the focus and the farm bill is going to take a backseat until we get these funding issues resolved."


Compounding Chaos


Russell said the war and humanitarian crises unfolding in the Middle East could further complicate the political chaos present in the U.S. and abroad.


"I think it's going to have very serious repercussions in the Middle East, and certainly has the potential - and I'm not predicting this - but it has the potential of turning into a powder keg, pulling in not only Hamas in the Gaza Strip but also Hezbollah up north out of Lebanon and out of Syria," he said. "This could really spin into something much bigger than just what it is today."


Fuel Concerns Ahead


Phil Flynn, of The PRICE Futures Group, told Flory on Wednesday morning the situation in the Middle East is devastating in the toll it is exacting on human lives and also has significant implications for global markets.


One of his key concerns is the current deficit in oil production and availability.


"If you look at the daily global production, we really have a deficit going into this war," Flynn said. "There's not enough oil out there to meet demand, and that's why we've seen global inventories tighten fairly significantly in the last few months."


Flynn said while a lot of people blame OPEC for cutting production, that's only part of the story.


"The real story is, you know, bad energy policy or reluctance to let the U.S. energy producer to do their job," he said. "Now, we've created the situation where we have a real global event, that could definitely create an oil price shock a la 1974, and we're not prepared in the energy space like we should be."

News Bits


The U.S. soybean harvest made a big jump over the past week. That followed generally favorable harvest weather in much of the Midwest and Plains, but some areas are expected to see rain delays later this week.


The USDA says that as of Sunday, 43% of U.S. soybeans are harvested, compared to 23% a week ago and the five-year average of 37%, with 93% of the crop dropping leaves and 51% rated good to excellent, down 1%.


34% of corn is harvested, compared to 23% a week ago and 31% on average, with 89% mature and 53% of the crop called good to excellent, unchanged.


57% of winter wheat is planted and 29% has emerged, both close to normal.


25% of cotton is harvested, with 82% of bolls opened, near the respective usual paces, with 32% of the crop in good to excellent condition, up 2%.


82% of rice is harvested, compared to 79% on average.


44% of sorghum is harvested and 81% is mature, ahead of the typical rates, with 42% of the crop rated good to excellent, 1% higher than last week.


35% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are in good to excellent shape, steady with the prior week, but with 1% moving from excellent down to good.


The USDA's weekly crop progress and condition reports are scheduled to run through the end of November.


‘Beer is so old that we don’t know how old it is’: Brewing evolution from the Stone Age to the era of craft beers

Bonnie BerkowitzLeslie ShapiroManuel CanalesTim Meko | Washington Post


Beer is so old that we don’t know how old it is. Most of the earliest known cultures brewed it, and some scholars believe that it was the quest for beer, not bread, that motivated our hunter-gatherer ancestors to settle down and cultivate grain.


The first beer probably came from Africa, because that’s where the first people were, said Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the Penn Museum and a longtime authority on ancient fermented beverages.


Beer is basically fermented grain. First, moisture makes the grain sprout, priming its enzymes to transform starch into sugar. Yeast then converts the sugar into alcohol.


Humans would have discovered this process by happy accident, probably in many places around the world at different times: A pile of grain sat out in the rain and sun, some wild yeast latched onto its sugar, and a few days later — whoa!


They learned to replicate the process, creating beer traditions nearly everywhere.

Although no evidence has been found of a Paleolithic African brew — “the Holy Grail of fermented beverages,” according to [Patrick] McGovern — he suspects it would have been made from wild millet or sorghum, grains long cultivated and used for beer in Africa, and flavored with whatever grew nearby.


This is an excerpt. Read the original post here


‘Merchants of misinformation’: Nigeria survives activist lobbying, embraces crop biotechnology

Odimegwu Onwumere | Nigerian Voice


Biotechnology is currently facing controversial challenges due to merchants of misinformation, but the importance of Genetic Modification in advancing agriculture cannot be overstated. Odimegwu Onwumere examines that biotechnology is now viewed as a necessity rather than a choice.


Dr. Rose Gidado, the Nigeria chapter coordinator of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, urged the media to assist in raising awareness among Nigerians and farmers about the true essence of modern biotechnology. She emphasized the importance of farmers during this period of commercialization.


“Biotechnology is currently encountering controversial challenges on a global scale due to the dissemination of misinformation by anti-biotechnology activists,” she said. In addition, Gidado noted that it is important to mention that there has been no recorded evidence of any harm inflicted upon humans, animals, or the environment since the introduction of this technology over twenty years ago.


The authorization for the commercial release of Pod-Borer Resistant Cowpea (PBR cowpea; AAT709A) was granted in January 2019. Towards the end of 2020, the NBMA issued guidelines on gene editing, and on October 8, 2020, the cultivation of TELA maize (drought and insect tolerant) was authorized. Nigeria also became the first African nation to introduce gene editing guidelines in December 2020.


This is an excerpt. Read the original post here


Is organic food worth higher prices? A Harvard researcher advises on how to sidestep the con, save money and eat healthier

Emily Joshu | Daily Mail (UK)


Organic foods, valued at over $75 billion, have long been touted as superior to conventionally grown foods, with some studies claiming they have added health properties and can ward off disease.


More than two-thirds of Americans believe these foods, which claim to be grown with fewer pesticides and often cost significantly more than regular food, are healthier.


However, Dr Robert Paalberg, professor in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University, said that evidence suggesting organic food is more nutritious is unreliable, and consuming fewer pesticides may not have an impact on health.


‘There is no reliable evidence showing that organically grown foods are more nutritious or safer to eat,’ he said.

‘If we follow science, organic food loses its apparent advantage.’


Dr Paalberg pointed to a 2012 review from Stanford University, which looked at 237 studies on organic food. The researchers found no convincing differences in nutrients or health benefits between organic and conventional foods.


Still, about 40 percent of Americans believe at least some of the food they eat is organic, according to Pew Research data. And 68 percent believe organic food is healthier than conventionally grown options.


This could be due to organic food’s higher price tag, as well as some studies that suggest it could be healthier.


This is an excerpt. Read the original post here


How a heat-tolerant wheat crop offers hope for water-stressed countries

Test project in Morocco described as 'truly revolutionary'

John Dennehy Riyadh in InClimate


Heat tolerant varieties of wheat grown in Morocco over the past several years have produced the same yields with just half of the typical rainfall usually required, an expert has said.

The seeds have a deeper root system and this allows them to thrive in a water-stressed environment.

Aly Abousabaa, director general of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (Icarda), said the yields were strong even during 2021 and 2022 when Morocco experienced the “drought of the century”.


Icarda is a non-profit international organisation that is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) network, a leading research body. It is involved in projects across the world in cooperation with host countries.


Speaking at the Middle East and North Africa Climate Week on Monday, Mr Abousabaa said it was crucial that small farmers across the region are given the ability to adapt to a warming world – and these types of projects showed the way forward.


We are able to do things today we could never have dreamt of doing 10 years ago

Aly Abousabaa, director general of International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (Icarda)


Adaptation is seen as a vital way for the world to deal with climate change along with mitigation, which means cutting emissions.


“Typical rainfall in Morocco is 350mm to 400mm a year,” Aly Abousabaa told The National. “But in the past two years the average in the location where it was tested was half of this amount. You immediately see there was a 50 per cent loss of water and yet it gave a typical yield. That is a truly revolutionary.”


Mr Abousabaa was speaking on the second day of the event at a panel discussion on how climate change is hitting the region.


He highlighted how Icarda is involved in helping farmers whether through using these types of crops or building more efficient greenhouse systems.


Many of these projects are at testing phase and need to be scaled up, but he said the potential is clear.


"Over thousands of years, plants adapted to a certain pattern," said Mr Abousabaa. “And when the climate changed, the plants got confused. This comes with penalties on water; penalties on yield production; and the introduction of new forms of pests and disease.”


Despite the negative reports about the fate of the planet, Mr Abousabaa said he felt hopeful about the prospects of how science, technology and using traditional knowledge from the past can lead to a more resilient future.

He said farmers need help to adapt to a situation where they will have less rainfall, higher heat, more degraded land and less diversity.


“You do that by giving them crops that have higher tolerance; if rains come a little bit later or less than expected then the plant is able to still give some yield," Mr Abousabaa said.


Finding efficient solutions


He pointed to a project in India where farmers were able to use an early maturing variety of lentils to grow crops during the 70-day window between rice crops.


Lentils typically take up to 90 days to grow but these seeds allowed farmers to be more efficient and make more effective use of their land.


The seeds are taken from the Icarda gene bank, a mammoth collection of seeds comprising 155,000 seeds from around the world, with 30,000 wheat varieties that have been sourced from Uzbekistan to Morocco.


The process to find a suitable seed typically involves selecting one that has already been grown into a warm country.


It then undergoes an "evolution process in the field done naturally".


“They are not modified in a laboratory but in the field through crossings and crop breeding with scientists,” said Mr Abousabaa. “The ones that have a much higher resistance to drought have a deeper root system. The plant tries to prepare itself to extract whatever little water.”

Another climate solution was a new type of greenhouse system that uses 80 per cent less water.


Countries across the Middle East and North Africa typically used to import the European model of greenhouses with plastic panels.


But this tended to be water intensive using evaporative water coolers to chill the greenhouse.


Read more

Why water scarcity is not just a 'green' issue


“We used a net instead of plastic [panels] so there is some form of ventilation and less capacity for maintaining heat inside. Then we got rid of the coolers,” he said.


Water is instead chilled using solar power and fed directly to the root of the plant.


There is no need to cool anything else and no need for the evaporative coolers, resulting in water savings of up to 80 per cent since growing is done in the cooler months.


The project was successfully tested across the Middle East, including in the UAE, and the hope now is that it can be scaled up and used commercially.


"We are able to do things today we could never have dreamt of doing 10 years ago," said Mr Abousabaa.


"I believe as things get worse there will be innovations in science and technology that will help us cope."


Editor's Note: We understand why we maintain seed banks but it seems relatively rare when an important advance is made utilizing germplasm sourced from a seed bank of relatively ancient varieties. Proof of concept!


By Daniel Costa, Economic Policy Institute

In 2022, the average earnings of all nonsupervisory farmworkers (i.e., combined field and livestock workers) was $16.62 per hour. This is just half (52%) of the average hourly wage for all workers in the United States in 2022, which stands at $32.00 per hour (see EPI's Data Library).


The average hourly wage for production and nonsupervisory nonfarm workers--the most appropriate cohort of nonagricultural workers to compare with farmworkers--was $27.56, according to the Current Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In other words, farmworkers earned just under 60% of what production and nonsupervisory workers outside of agriculture earned.


USDA has referred to this wage gap between farmworker and nonfarm worker wages as "slowly shrinking, but still substantial." In 2022, the farmworker wage gap remained substantial and virtually unchanged from the previous two years.


Farmworkers have very low levels of educational attainment. According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, 26% completed the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, and 14% completed some education beyond high school.


Farmworkers earn the same or less than the two groups of nonfarm workers with the lowest levels of education in the United States: Nonsupervisory farmworkers earned 10 cents an hour more than the average wage earned by workers without a high school diploma ($16.52), but earned $5.32 less per hour than the average wage earned by workers with only a high school diploma ($21.94).


In sum, farmworkers in the United States continue to earn relatively low wages, and have for many decades, which belies the suggestions from agribusiness that farmworkers are overpaid and that their wages are rising uncontrollably.


Editor's Note: We pay reasonably close attention to the news, particularly agricultural news, and we must have missed the "suggestions" from agribusiness that farmworkers are overpaid. Given that many farmworkers are relatively unskilled we do not recall a categorization of the segment being "overpaid." Most of us had part time agricultural jobs at the outset of our careers and noted then, as now, that part time ag work is not covered by minimum wage laws. Hence many of us worked for "substantially less than all workers." My first job paid $1.75 an hour; how about yours? Hit reply to the email that delivered this edition of the Weekly Update and we'll report the responses, without names, as soon as we get a few.


Okay, the point of the article is well-taken. If we want good and faithful employees you have to pay them what they are worth to you. When's the last time you took inventory of how your workers are compensated in light of the current state of the economy?



Mississippi River water levels are plummeting to an all-time low this week at Memphis in the wake of a sweltering summer and ongoing drought - setting a record for the second consecutive year, new data shows.


The low levels have disrupted barge traffic and have allowed saltwater to move up the Mississippi River in Louisiana, threatening the drinking water for thousands of people.


The water level at Memphis fell to a record-low elevation of minus 11.5 feet on Wednesday afternoon, according to data from the National Weather Service. The preliminary record must be verified by the US Army Corp of Engineers, NWS Memphis noted on social media, and water levels could continue to drop in the coming days.


This year's record is even lower than last. Near the end of last October, the Mississippi had dropped to minus 10.81 feet.


Several other records were set this weekend along the Mississippi and its major tributary, the Ohio River: Cairo, Illinois, was at a level of 4.5 feet, while New Madrid and Caruthersville in Missouri reached minus 6.4 feet and minus 2.6 feet, respectively.


Since at least mid-September, every water level gauge along a nearly 400-mile stretch of the Mississippi from the Ohio River to Jackson, Mississippi, has been at or below the low-water threshold, according data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and US Geological Survey.


The low water has again sparked concerns for barge traffic during the critical harvest period, when staple Midwestern crops including soybeans, corn and wheat are transported down the river.


Hoosier Ag Today radio network reports:


The Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) Report, which was just released by Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), says the world's agricultural productivity isn't growing fast enough to be able to feed an estimated global population of nearly 10 billion people by 2050.


To read the GAP Report click here.


New findings from the GAP Report, this year titled "Every Farmer, Every Tool," suggest that not enough producers are able to access productivity-enhancing technologies and efficient practices. To correct course, the globe must reach a higher target productivity growth rate of 1.91 percent annually to meet global agricultural needs without relying on unsustainable practices.


Pressure is mounting to find solutions to both short- and long-term challenges facing local, regional, and global food systems. Major global shocks, climatic variability, and rapidly changing demand for agricultural products show that a new mode of operations is needed to reach the target growth rate.


"To increase agricultural productivity, we must produce more outputs with the same or fewer resources used," said Tom Thompson, associate dean at the college and director of CALS Global. "Global agricultural productivity growth has continued its downward trend. We must change this trajectory together so that we can improve and enhance food and nutrition security, sustainability, and resilience. Every farmer needs to have the tools in their hands to be as successful as possible."


Productivity growth must be sustainable


Increasingly at the forefront of global policy dialogues, sustainable productivity growth is recognized as the single most effective solution to meeting demand for agricultural output and environmental goals. Collaboration between the public, private, and civil sectors is critical to giving every farmer access to every proven tool for sustainable agricultural productivity growth.


Agricultural productivity is increasing, but not at a high enough rate. From 2011-21, global total factor productivity, a measure of the world's agricultural productivity, grew at an average of just 1.14 percent annually. To meet the agricultural needs of a growing global population by 2050, 1.91 percent annual growth is the new target. Failure to meet this target could result in an overreliance on unsustainable production practices and accelerate the decline in total factor productivity growth.


If producers at all production scales can access proven, sustainable, appropriate, productivity-enhancing tools, significant strides can be made in closing the growth gap. Increasing access to and adoption of these tools will require strengthening the enabling environment, addressing influences of food system actor behaviors, and mitigating the effects of external shocks and forces.


To read the entire report click here.


Editor's Note: Does anyone recall another report that reaches similar conclusions? We've seen plenty about how we were "keeping pace" but don't remember a credible source citing we are falling behind.


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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.