This week we had the pleasure of visiting with Congressman Austin Scott of the 8th District. The 8th District runs about half of the length of Georgia from Macon south and about 4 counties wide in some areas. Some of the larger cotton producing counties are in this district. It is always great to be able to visit one-on-one with Senators and Congressmen while they are at home. Congressman Scott is on the ag committee and very aware of many of the issues cotton farmers are facing.
One of the first things we discussed was the pollinator protection issue. Many states, including Georgia, have or are developing statewide plans of best management practices to encourage pollinator health. The Georgia Cotton Commission supports the use of best management practices by farmers, landowners, beekeepers, and home owners to support a healthy habitat for pollinators. Congressman Scott is well aware of this issue and actually already introduced legislation aimed at helping protect honey bee populations. HR 5447 would expedite the approval process of products aimed at controlling the varroa mite, a deadly pest that can cause honey bee colonies significant losses.
Also discussed was the new herbicide technologies we hope to see in the fields next year. As all farmers know first hand, resistant pigweed is probably the single largest weed control issue in the Southeast US. Both Monsanto and Dow Agrosciences are introducing new technologies (pending full regulatory approval) that would help combat resistant pigweeds. The Georgia Cotton Commission has been a supporter of both new technologies as we hope that our farmers have as many options as possible to fight resistant pigweeds. I mentioned some of this in last week’s post. Congressman Scott understands the need for our farmers to have new and improved options on their farms.
Overall, it was a great visit and it was good time to learn more about the cotton industry and some current issues in Congress.
Above: Richey Seaton, Executive Director, Georgia Cotton Commission; Congressman Austin Scott (GA-8); and Lloyd May, Cotton Breeder, Monsanto
Above: Philip Grimes, 2014 GA Farmer of the Year; Congressman Scott; and Lloyd May
This week USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) approved the deregulation of Dow AgroSciences new corn and soybean varieties that are 2,4-D resistant. This is major step in the right direction for all of US agriculture in that our farmers will have one more tool in fighting weeds. The Georgia Cotton Commission supports the use of new technologies to help our farmers combat weeds. We look forward to seeing this and other new technologies in the future to give our growers a range of options to manage weeds on the their farms. But, it is still not 100% certain that these new 2,4-D crops will be available since the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) still has to deregulate the new formulations of 2,4-D used on these crops. For those not familiar with how new traits and pesticides are introduced, I’ll do my best to explain below and clear up confusion of how the process works.
First, agricultural companies have to find a select for specific traits in the lab to get the desirable outcome they want. Then to plant these new varieties in the field for testing the companies have to get approval from the USDA. It is my understanding that this is not a very long process and their are many products approved to be tested that never make it to commercial status. These are commonly referred to as “regulated plots/trails.” Then after many years of testing, the company has to petition the USDA-APHIS to deregulate the particular trait that is to be in the new planned varieties. This used to only take about a year but now it is much longer. Dow first sent their petition for deregulation to APHIS in October 2011. Now, in September 2014, they have finally approved the deregulation. This new lengthy process is mainly because the USDA is signalling that it will do an Environmental Assessment or conduct and Environmental Impact Study on all new traits introduced. Hence, the three year waiting period.
After APHIS finally approves of the new traits, then EPA has to approve of the new pesticide that is applied to this trait. In this case it is the herbicide 2,4-D. EPA will not deregulate a product before APHIS deregulates the trait. EPA takes into consideration the findings of APHIS in their assessment for deregulation, but they also have their own process and requirements to be met before approval is granted.
So that’s where we stand today. The reason all this is important for cotton farmers is that Monsanto is going through the same process as Dow except with their new cotton traits. Monsanto plans to have new Deltapine dicamba-resistant varieties on the market in 2015. They are in the stage of getting APHIS to approve the traits, then they will have to wait on EPA to approve the new formulation of dicamba. If all goes as planned, Georgia cotton farmers will see new dicamba-resistant varieties on the market in 2015 and new 2,4-D varieties on the market in 2016. We support the deregulation of these new technologies because they offer our farmers valuable tools in the constant battle against weeds.
This past Wednesday we held our annual UGA Cotton and Peanut Field Day. This event is co-sponsored by the Georgia Peanut Commission. The event is an opportunity for the growers, industry folk, ag media, and the general public to view first hand the research being conducted by the UGA Cotton Team and the UGA Peanut Team. Similar to our program where we fund the UGA Cotton Team, the Georgia Peanut Commission provides financial support for researchers on the UGA Peanut Team. The field day was a great opportunity for cotton and peanut growers to see exactly how their assessment dollars are spent.
The event was a huge success with an estimated crowd of over 200 in attendance. Stops on the tour included the UGA Gibbs Farm, the UGA Lang Farm, and several speakers during lunch at the Tifton Campus Conference Center. At these various stops many cotton topics were discussed such as variety selection, drift management, thrips management, irrigation scheduling, economics, and target spot. Be looking for more detailed information regarding each of these topics on our website soon. Also, check out our Facebook page to see photos of the field day.
Contamination by foreign materials in cotton has become an issue over the last couple of growing seasons. This contamination comes from a wide variety of foreign materials including, plastic bags, plastic mulch, bale wrap, rope, gloves, etc. This is a problem for U.S. grown cotton since the United States has always had a good reputation for contamination free cotton. We would like to keep it that way and keep cotton mills around the world demanding high quality U.S. grown cotton. It is important to remember that one small piece of foreign material can contaminate lots of bales and ruin many yards of fabric. For instance, a plastic grocery bag may be picked up by the harvester and shredded when it goes through the picker head. Then it is shredded even more when it runs through the gin. This one plastic bag may become strung out across hundreds of bales. The worst part is that now not only is your cotton contaminated, but other cotton running through the gin is contaminated also.
It is really hard to pinpoint exactly where contamination is introduced into the cotton stream, but here are a few ways that we think contamination enters the cotton stream.
- Picked up in field by cotton picker.
- Picked up in field by module truck.
- Picked up in gin from unwrapping round modules or torn module tarps.
- Picked up in warehouse from unclean floor.
These are just a few theories of how cotton may be contaminated by foreign materials. This list in no way encompasses all of the ways cotton may become contaminated. We have developed a page on our website dedicated to this issue. Awareness is the key. There may be practices on the farm, gin, or warehouse that can be altered to help mitigate cotton becoming contaminated.
Remember that contamination free cotton not only helps your cotton but helps the entire industry by maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. grown cotton.
So let’s Keep Our Cotton Clean!