Texas Agriculture September 2, 2016 : Page 13

TxDOT improves rural roadways By Jessica Domel News Editor Thanks to voter action and the Tex-as Legislature, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is now hard-at-work repairing rural road-ways affected by the oil and gas boom. “A lot of Texas roads have been in bad shape over the last five or six years because of increased energy sector activity related to oil and gas,” Mark Cross, TxDOT public informa-tion officer, said. “We have gone about trying to address those pretty aggres-sively—especially over the last two or three years with the help of the state legislature.” In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed a bill establishing TxDOT’s County Transportation Infrastruc-ture Fund grant program. It autho-rized $224.5 million to be distributed among eligible counties affected by oil and gas production. “The second part came in 2014. Texas voters passed Proposition 1 that was put forth by the legislature,” Cross said. “This is a constitutional amendment that allowed for some ad-ditional transportation funding, not just for energy sector roads. It’s addi-tional funding in general and then a small percentage of that funding also went to energy sector roads.” The constitutional amendment al-lows the state to transfer money col-lected from oil and gas taxes from the state’s Rainy Day Fund into the State Highway Fund. In 2015, the state comptroller ap-proved $1.75 billion available for transfer under the new amendment. According to TxDOT, it began awarding contracts for projects in March 2015. This year, TxDOT proposed a pro-gram to strengthen pavements and make other improvements to road-ways in oil and gas regions. Improvements include: strength-ening pavement shoulders, adding shoulders, adding turn lanes at key intersections and constructing pass-ing lanes on select corridors, according to Cross. TxDOT has sorted roadway im-provements into two categories—Pri-ority 1 and Priority 2—to determine the allocation of funds. They estimate the Prior-ity 1 roads in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas will require more than $500 mil-lion to repair. “Eagle Ford was an area that was hit pretty hard like several other areas of the state where there were shale regions being worked on,” Cross said. “In 2015, the Eagle Ford Shale region experienced more than 3,000 crashes and 247 fatalities. That was pretty significant for that area. That area has also had projects that we’ve addressed over the last couple of years, and we’ll continue to do so to make sure we’ve got them back on a pathway to safety.” Damages to roadways in the Perm-ian Basin area in West Texas are es-timated at more than $676 million. The Barnett Shale, near the DFW metroplex, is estimated to need $271 million in Priority 1 repairs. The An-darko Basin on the east side of the Panhandle is estimated at $97 mil-lion in roadway repairs, while the Paynesville-Bossier in East Texas is estimated at $179 million. The five shale plays’ Priority 1 needs top $1.5 billion, according to a recent TxDOT survey. Roadway im-provements classified as Priority 2 will cost an additional $1.25 billion. It’s not clear how long it will take to improve the roadways, but Cross says TxDOT will continue working until they can get the roadways back to where they need to be. TxDOT is hosting community meet-ings about improvements across the state. A presentation on the improve-ments, as well as future meeting dates, is posted at RoadsForTex-asEnergy.com. U.S. fertilizer prices fall with increased domestic production By Shala Watson Staff Writer The sluggish commodity mar-ket is forcing farmers to cut in-put costs while still maximizing yields. But the steady decline in fertilizer prices is providing some much-needed relief to farm bud-gets. Low demand, more domestic nitrogen production and a drop in overall world fertilizer values have all been factors in the down-ward slide in fertilizer prices, ac-cording to industry experts. Currently, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of nitrogen fer-tilizers, according to U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture (USDA) data. But lower natural gas prices have revived the domestic fertilizer in-dustry and helped encourage the U.S. to become less reliant on ni-trogen imports for fertilizer pro-duction. “If we’re reliant on North Amer-ican production, it gives us all a lot better feeling and, in the end, the grower winds up with lower cost products and the consumer ulti-mately winds up with lower cost products,” James Hopkins, sales supervisor with Agrium, said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Radio Network. The landscape of domestic ni-trogen production is changing, and the U.S. is becoming more in-dependent through building more nitrogen facilities. “New plants are being built. Old plants are having increased capacity added. The net effect is that the U.S. and North America will import fewer nitrogen prod-ucts and be more self-sufficient,” Hopkins said. The increase in domestic fer-tilizer production will help keep prices down. “We will continue to have more nitrogen facilities come online here within the next year or two, so that will continue to keep prices down, especially on the nitrogen,” Rosty Walker, Inter-Chem rep-resentative, told the TFB Radio Network. Inter-Chem is a whole-sale fertilizer distributor. As fertilizer prices continue to decrease, there is a tradeoff in the agricultural market between the distributor and the farmer. Nitrogen producers are getting less for what they are producing and demand is low, but logistics are good and distributors can get trucks and railcars in a “very timely manner,” Walker noted. “Higher prices led to more pro-duction and now we have a bit of an abundance, so prices are go-ing to go down. It comes at a good time because commodity prices are pretty low right now for the grower, so they need to cut every cost they can,” Hopkins said. Walker expects fertilizer prices to remain low for the foreseeable future. “Overall, I think the fertilizer values will stay pretty low with the seasons compared to years past. So I think it will be benefi-cial for the dealers and the farm-ers, compared to where these low grain prices are currently,” he said. S EPTEMBER 2 , 2016 13

TxDOT Improves Rural Roadways

Jessica Domel

Thanks to voter action and the Texas Legislature, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is now hard-at-work repairing rural roadways affected by the oil and gas boom.

“A lot of Texas roads have been in bad shape over the last five or six years because of increased energy sector activity related to oil and gas,” Mark Cross, TxDOT public information officer, said. “We have gone about trying to address those pretty aggressively—especially over the last two or three years with the help of the state legislature.”

In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed a bill establishing TxDOT’s County Transportation Infrastructure Fund grant program. It authorized $224.5 million to be distributed among eligible counties affected by oil and gas production.

“The second part came in 2014. Texas voters passed Proposition 1 that was put forth by the legislature,” Cross said. “This is a constitutional amendment that allowed for some additional transportation funding, not just for energy sector roads. It’s additional funding in general and then a small percentage of that funding also went to energy sector roads.”

The constitutional amendment allows the state to transfer money collected from oil and gas taxes from the state’s Rainy Day Fund into the State Highway Fund.

In 2015, the state comptroller approved $1.75 billion available for transfer under the new amendment. According to TxDOT, it began awarding contracts for projects in March 2015.

This year, TxDOT proposed a program to strengthen pavements and make other improvements to roadways in oil and gas regions.

Improvements include: strengthening pavement shoulders, adding shoulders, adding turn lanes at key intersections and constructing passing lanes on select corridors, according to Cross.

TxDOT has sorted roadway improvements into two categories—Priority 1 and Priority 2—to determine the allocation of funds.

They estimate the Priority 1 roads in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas will require more than $500 million to repair.

“Eagle Ford was an area that was hit pretty hard like several other areas of the state where there were shale regions being worked on,” Cross said. “In 2015, the Eagle Ford Shale region experienced more than 3,000 crashes and 247 fatalities. That was pretty significant for that area. That area has also had projects that we’ve addressed over the last couple of years, and we’ll continue to do so to make sure we’ve got them back on a pathway to safety.”

Damages to roadways in the Permian Basin area in West Texas are estimated at more than $676 million. The Barnett Shale, near the DFW metroplex, is estimated to need $271 million in Priority 1 repairs. The Andarko Basin on the east side of the Panhandle is estimated at $97 million in roadway repairs, while the Paynesville-Bossier in East Texas is estimated at $179 million.

The five shale plays’ Priority 1 needs top $1.5 billion, according to a recent TxDOT survey. Roadway improvements classified as Priority 2 will cost an additional $1.25 billion.

It’s not clear how long it will take to improve the roadways, but Cross says TxDOT will continue working until they can get the roadways back to where they need to be.

TxDOT is hosting community meetings about improvements across the state. A presentation on the improvements, as well as future meeting dates, is posted at RoadsForTexasEnergy.com.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/TxDOT+Improves+Rural+Roadways/2574617/334294/article.html.

U.S. Fertilizer Prices Fall with Increased Domestic Production

Shala Watson

The sluggish commodity market is forcing farmers to cut input costs while still maximizing yields. But the steady decline in fertilizer prices is providing some much-needed relief to farm budgets.

Low demand, more domestic nitrogen production and a drop in overall world fertilizer values have all been factors in the downward slide in fertilizer prices, according to industry experts.

Currently, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of nitrogen fertilizers, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data. But lower natural gas prices have revived the domestic fertilizer industry and helped encourage the U.S. to become less reliant on nitrogen imports for fertilizer production.

“If we’re reliant on North American production, it gives us all a lot better feeling and, in the end, the grower winds up with lower cost products and the consumer ultimately winds up with lower cost products,” James Hopkins, sales supervisor with Agrium, said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Radio Network.

The landscape of domestic nitrogen production is changing, and the U.S. is becoming more independent through building more nitrogen facilities.

“New plants are being built. Old plants are having increased capacity added. The net effect is that the U.S. and North America will import fewer nitrogen products and be more self-sufficient,” Hopkins said.

The increase in domestic fertilizer production will help keep prices down.

“We will continue to have more nitrogen facilities come online here within the next year or two, so that will continue to keep prices down, especially on the nitrogen,” Rosty Walker, Inter-Chem representative, told the TFB Radio Network. Inter-Chem is a wholesale fertilizer distributor.

As fertilizer prices continue to decrease, there is a tradeoff in the agricultural market between the distributor and the farmer.

Nitrogen producers are getting less for what they are producing and demand is low, but logistics are good and distributors can get trucks and railcars in a “very timely manner,” Walker noted.

“Higher prices led to more production and now we have a bit of an abundance, so prices are going to go down. It comes at a good time because commodity prices are pretty low right now for the grower, so they need to cut every cost they can,” Hopkins said.

Walker expects fertilizer prices to remain low for the foreseeable future.

“Overall, I think the fertilizer values will stay pretty low with the seasons compared to years past. So I think it will be beneficial for the dealers and the farmers, compared to where these low grain prices are currently,” he said.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/U.S.+Fertilizer+Prices+Fall+with+Increased+Domestic+Production/2574619/334294/article.html.

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