Texas Agriculture November 6, 2015 : Page 6
Removal of Transform Could Hurt Sorghum Growers
What started out as a complaint in California led to the removal of a popular insecticide used to fight the spread of sugarcane aphids across the United States.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the Environmental Protection Agency’s registration of Transform, or sulfoxaflor, after determining there was not enough information in the insecticide’s packet regarding the potential impact on honeybees.
The issue was brought to the court’s attention by a group of beekeepers and environmental groups in California. As a result of that decision, sulfoxaflor, which is produced by Dow Agrosciences LLC, is no longer available to American farmers who rely on it to help keep the pest at bay.
“It’s a very important chemical to fight the sugarcane aphid,” Dan B. Smith, Texas Farm Bureau state director, said. “We do have another one, Sivanto, but this year we had to spray our sorghum twice. We used Transform the first time and Sivanto the next.”
Transform received a Section 18 exemption from the EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in 2014.
It was again granted exemption in February 2015 to allow farmers to use the product to fight off and control the aphids that were damaging and destroying sorghum across the state.
Sivanto, produced by Bayer Crop Science, received its Section 3 federal label in 2015.
“The two products work on the same active site, but they’re in different chemical classes,” Dr. Charles Allen, Extension entomologist with Texas A&M AgriLife, said in an interview with the TFB Radio Network.
Smith, like other sorghum farmers, used both products to prevent the aphids from destroying the crop with their sticky honeydew.
“In order to fight resistance, we tried to use two different chemistries,” Smith said. “Without it, there’s a chance of resistance.”
If sugarcane aphids become resistant to Sivanto, farmers would be without a way to prevent the aphids from destroying their crops.
“In looking at how the sugarcane aphid has spread across the U.S. sorghum belt, we’d need to treat millions of acres of grain sorghum,” Allen said. “If we only have one product, we’re prone to develop resistance. We do not have a backup.”
Without a way to protect their crops, farmers may be unwilling to plant sorghum crops in the future for fear of widespread loss.
Volatile Beef Prices Lead to Winter Months
Highs and lows—in weather and prices—have left Texas ranchers facing an unsettled market.
In a normal year, the market was expected to increase throughout the fall. But this year was different. A sharp downturn occurred in September, showing market prices can be shocked at any time.
“Such a sharp break at this time of year really got folks’ attention,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). “When markets are moving hard against the normal, seasonal expectations, everybody draws in to wait and see what’s going on.”
And that’s what happened from September through October, making the cattle market tough to assess.
The market shock came from an abnormal amount of heavy fed cattle heading to the packinghouse following a summer of low grain prices.
“Feed yards had plenty of signals telling them to make the most of cheaper feed and tight cattle supplies,” said Tracy Tomascik, Texas Farm Bureau associate director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities.
And many of them did. Feeding cattle to higher weights and delaying those sales led to a large supply of market-ready cattle and a need to get them out of feedlot inventory.
“That unusual sell-off-dropped prices during a time when we expect to see a fall rally and prices steadily add $1 to $2 through the end of the year,” Anderson said.
That drop was followed by a sharp, three-week rebound as October markets came to a close. Anderson noted fed cattle prices rose around $16 per hundredweight during that time.
“We had a nice little bounce from the lows that we saw, but we really don’t have a lot of life right now,” Anderson said.
And a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), that classified red and processed meats as probably carcinogenic to humans had a slight effect on the futures market. But Anderson doesn’t expect the report to have much impact on the market going forward.
As the volatility subsides and prices settle, ranchers hope for a more normal market heading into the winter.
“Market-ready, fed cattle have been plentiful. And they’ve been big,” Anderson said. “That put a lot of pressure on the fed cattle market. As we look ahead, we’ll be working through those front end numbers for the remainder of the year.”
The market is still fundamentally strong, he noted. Global demand for beef is high, but the U.S. supplies needed to meet it remain tight.
And, while a recovery is expected later this year and into 2016, record prices aren’t. Competing proteins will likely keep pressure on beef prices, Anderson said.
The cattle market is a game of highs and lows. Holding and selling. And taking a gamble.