Farm bill, grain dealers and keeping wheat peanut-free discussed at Soybean/Small Grain Expo
By: Georgia Farm Bureau
3/8/2017 11:03:13 AM
Farmers attending the annual Georgia/Florida Soybean/Small Grain Expo held Feb. 21 in Perry received a preview of the upcoming farm bill, learned about irrigation technology to help them conserve water while growing their crops and heard how the Georgia Soybean Commission, Georgia/Florida Soybean Association and American Soybean Association are working to promote soybeans.
Tas Smith, assistant director of the Georgia Farm Bureau Legislative Department, gave an update on legislative issues in Washington, D.C., and their impact on agriculture.
Smith outlined what farmers may expect as the 2018 farm bill is written in coming months. The House Agriculture Committee held its first full committee hearing for the farm bill on Feb. 15. The U.S. Senate Agriculture committee held its first farm bill hearing Feb. 23 at Kansas State University.
"I expect we'll be operating in a similar budget environment as the last farm bill, which means it will be very difficult to get new programs approved," Smith said.
"I think there's a good chance we'll see an extension of the current farm bill because midterm elections are two months after the farm bill expires in September 2018. Typically, politicians don't like to spend money in an election year." Smith said.
Jack Spruill, director of the Georgia Department of Agriculture's marketing division, discussed the laws and regulations pertaining to the state warehouse program. Spruill urged grain growers to be certain they are selling their crop to grain dealers or warehouses that are licensed and bonded with the state of Georgia.
Georgia law requires grain dealers to pay for crops purchased (or at least put the payment in the mail) within 48 hours of receiving the crop, unless there is a written agreement to store the grain for sale at a later date, Spruill said. Grain warehouses storing commodities for farmers should issue a warehouse receipt for the crop they are holding.
Spruill stressed that a producer only has six months (180 days) to file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Agriculture to seek payment for his crop if he isn't paid on time.
"Be careful and make sure you are dealing with someone who is reputable and not trying to take your money,"
Spruill said. "It's a requirement in state law that we must audit grain warehouses in the state warehouse program at least six times a year."
Ardent Mills employees Glen Weaver, Sam Doering and Jacinda Dunn, stressed the importance of keeping any traces of peanuts out of the wheat supply used for food to protect consumers with peanut allergies. This issue surfaced last year after another company had to recall products made with wheat flour supplied by a Georgia mill that tested positive for traces of peanuts.
Ardent Mills has a plant in Macon, Ga., that uses Georgia-grown wheat for making flour. Weaver said 60 percent of the wheat milled at Ardent Mills' Macon plant has come from Georgia in the past.
"We want to increase awareness of the issue so we don't have to eliminate buying Georgia wheat," Doering said. "We want this mill to grind Georgia wheat, that's what it is set up to do."
Ardent Mills is working with railroad lines to ensure there is no cross-contamination between wheat and peanuts and is looking to do the same with trucks that haul Georgia wheat to its mill.
Doering said it only takes one or two peanuts in a truck of wheat for peanut particles to make their way into the wheat flour when the wheat grain is crushed to make the flour.
The company representatives stressed the importance of making certain that trailers hauling wheat are cleaned thoroughly if they have ever been used to haul peanuts or peanut-derived products and is working to establish a protocol farmers and truck drivers can follow before this year's wheat crop is harvested.
Weaver suggested that growers ask crop transporters what assurances they can offer that peanut residue cannot be found in trucks used to haul wheat to a mill.
Billy Skaggs, executive secretary of the Georgia Soybean Commodity Commission, provided an update on commission activities. Skaggs said 75 percent of the assessment Georgia growers pay to fund the commission goes into research to improve crop production. Research projects the commission supports includes developing high yielding soybean varieties such as RR2Y/LL, irrigation research, and research addressing insect and disease issues in soybeans. The commission has also distributed educational materials about soybeans to more than 8,000 Georgia students since 2014.
Bill Liakos, a post-doctorate research associate at UGA working with Dr. George Vellidis on ways to increase irrigation efficiency, gave an overview of work Vellidis' research group is doing to develop a smartphone app specifically for soybean growers that will allow them to control their irrigation systems remotely with their smartphones. The app is also designed to help growers schedule irrigation based on real-time and forecast weather data.
Liakos said the soybean irrigation app is being modeled after the ones UGA developed for peanuts and cotton. The team began working on the soybean app last year and expects to release it in 2018. The app is being programed to use weather data (temperature, wind speed, relative humidity & solar radiation) provided by the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network (GAEMN), Florida Automated Weather Network and National Weather Service.
Sam Butler, a soybean grower from Alabama who serves on the American Soybean Association (ASA) Governing Committee, gave an overview of the work the ASA is doing on the national level on behalf of U.S. soybean growers. Butler said the ASA is working to educate the Trump Administration about the importance of international trade agreements for soybean growers since more than 60 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is exported.
"The American Soybean Association will be working to develop bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements to replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Butler said.
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