David Gibson, executive director of the Texas Corn Producers Association set the tone early. “Commodity prices have gone pretty much in the tank,” he said. “It may be worse next year. We could be down to 1990 prices ... . You better take those rose-colored glasses off. It’s not pretty out there.”
Texas Sorghum Producers Executive Director Wayne Cleveland followed that with some good news for the agents, as well as a pat on the back for their work dealing with the sugarcane aphid in sorghum.
“We stopped the sugarcane aphid through Extension,” he said. “It all goes back to the work you do with producers. Everything we’ve done with the sugarcane aphid we did strictly through scouting and then following through on that.”
However, aphids are still showing up in fields across the state, sometimes in treatable numbers, and Extension specialists recommend regular scouting all through the season.
Katie Allen, Texas Wheat Board and Association director of communications, told the agents that wheat farmers, with many of their fields washed out by spring floods, are asking for marketing assistance and information on Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs), adding that they’ve seen more requests this year than any year since the 1990s.
The situation for beef cattle producers is just as dire, according to Tim Niedecken with Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). He noted that beef prices reached unprecedented highs last year only to plummet to dumbfounding lows this year.
“Last year we were hoping we could hold on to high prices for a couple of years, but prices nosedived. In a year, prices went down 45 percent, and calf prices dropped by about a third,” he said. “These are the lowest prices we’ve seen since 2011.
“In the expansion phase, prices went from all-time highs to absolute bottom. That big a drop in that short a time is unprecedented.”
Niedecken said the TSCRA and others are working with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) to “fix the issues and understand what it’s doing to the industry.” Some have blamed high frequency traders for the dramatic drop in prices.
He added that the drop in prices hasn’t discouraged cattle thieves, especially in East Texas where an unusual number of cases have popped up.
“Brand your cows,” he said. “We can’t find them if they’re not branded.”
Dwight Jackson with Texas Cotton Producers reminded the agents that eligible cotton farmers have until Aug. 5 to sign up for a one-time cost-share payment from the USDA Farm Service Agency. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack authorized the one-time payment in June.
Texas produced 45 percent of U.S. cotton last year, Jackson said, and added that nearly all of that cotton is exported and comes back as imports in the form of finished goods. But he added that the current farm bill excludes cotton from risk protection coverage, offering only the subsidized Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX), which farmers and commodity groups say is inadequate.
Cotton’s biggest beef with the farm bill is that it excludes cottonseed as an oilseed, but Jackson and others with the cotton industry believe it belongs in the same category as canola and flax seed because it’s crushed into oil during the ginning process and used primarily as feed for dairy cattle and as a cooking oil.
Gibson said he hopes passage of the next farm bill, due in 2018, is smoother than the last time, which dragged on well past its original deadline.
“It’s going to be a real challenge,” he said. “We can’t have our (commodity) groups pivoting against each other.”