Earlier this week, the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board (TGSB), Texas Grain Sorghum Association (TGSA) and delegate body hosted the third joint annual meeting for the organizations. The meeting took place in Austin in conjunction with the Texas Ag Form. Approximately 50 grain sorghum producers and industry leaders from across the state came together to discuss farm policy, research projects and issues facing sorghum. Austin Wayne Self, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver also stopped by the meeting to discuss his partnership with TGSB, United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP) and TDA through a Biofuels Infrastructure Program Grant (BIP).
“For me it’s more than a logo on a truck— I get to represent something I believe in,” says Self. “When you’ve got a bunch of fans up there it makes it personal. It’s estimated that NASCAR has 80 million Americans out there looking to support a driver and get behind something they believe in. That’s why I think sorghum is so interesting in NASCAR. It’s real easy– you’ve got ethanol fuel, motors and you’ve got trucks racing at peak performance, so it ties into something the fans understand.”
The grant funds were primarily used to install 782 E15 blender pumps throughout Texas at businesses such as H-E-B, along with storage tanks and infrastructure.
Round Six of NAFTA Renegotiation Concludes—This week, negotiators from Canada, Mexico and the United States wrapped up the sixth formal round of talks for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement in Montreal, Canada. The negotiations, which began in August of 2017, have often been tense and gridlocked, with each of the member nation’s respective political circumstances casting outsize shadows on the proceedings.
Although the ideology of President Donald Trump was the impetus driving renegotiation in the first place, Mexican presidential politics are beginning to guide the 2018 rounds of negotiation. Mexican negotiators are anxious to reach a conclusion before their presidential election this summer in order to improve the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary party’s standing, particularly in regards to avowed anti-NAFTA challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
As far as agriculture is concerned, progress is being made towards a final agreement, but many hurdles remain to be cleared. Texts relating to sanitary and phytosanitary regulations on the border and the alignment of each country’s biotechnology regulations were nearly completed in this sixth round. These subjects, along with digital trade and other technological-based measures, have been considered the easiest to negotiate and so their advanced progress is to be expected.
Negotiations regarding thornier agriculture subjects, like market access for agricultural products and regulations on seasonal produce, still lag behind, with no country expressing improved optimism for their expedient resolution. There have also been discussions about attaching enforceable labor standards for Mexico to the agreement; Mexico insists that they are already progressing towards more humane standards and therefore no NAFTA benefits ought to be tethered to additional requirements.
The seventh round of negotiations is set for the end of February in Mexico City. The hosts hope to make substantial progress at this round ahead of their aforementioned presidential election. At least two more rounds are expected after that, but some pessimistic trade analysts are already predicting talks will linger into 2019. No matter how long they last, TGSA will continue to monitor and report developments in the negotiations.
Leadership Sorghum— The Sorghum Checkoff is accepting applications for Leadership Sorghum Class IV, a program designed to develop the next generation of sorghum leaders. Eligible applicants must be farmers actively engaged in sorghum production in the United States. Fifteen growers will be accepted into the program’s fourth class. The application for the program as well as more information is available at LeadSorghum.com. Deadline is 5:00 p.m. on March 16, 2018.
Applications Available for Young Farmer Grants—The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is now accepting applications for Young Farmer Grant (YFG), a program under the direction of Texas Agricultural Finance Authority (TAFA). The purpose of this program is to provide financial assistance in the form of dollar-for-dollar matching grant funds to individuals between the age of 18 and 46 years old who are engaged or will be engaged in creating or expanding an agricultural business in Texas. Additional details, instructions and the 2018 Round 2 application materials can be found here. Applications are due by the close of business Thursday, March 22, 2018.
Export Report –Export sales were firm again last week with China and Korea committing to purchase 6.5 million bushels of sorghum. Total commitments now stand at 194 million bushels. Shipments were also strong with China and Mexico taking delivery of 8.6 million bushels. Price stayed strong with Gulf premiums for sorghum at 27 percent. The northern plains was firm, as well.