Ag News

Commodity meetings offer information on production, economy

Georgia Farm Bureau’s 20 commodity advisory committees held meetings at the GFB Convention on Dec. 4 on Jekyll Island, offering farmers information about production of their crops or livestock, as well as updates on trade and efforts in Washington, D.C., to pass the new farm bill and disaster assistance legislation. Here’s a sampling:

GFB Hay contest winners, causes of spontaneous hay combustion

GFB announced the winners of the 2018 GFB Quality Hay Contest in the Hay Committee meeting, during which University of Georgia Professor and Extension Forage Specialist Dennis Hancock presented analysis of how harvested hay heats and catches fire in the Hay Committee meeting.

Marty Knowles of Telfair County won the Hay Contest with a Coastcross II sample, which had a Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) score of 160.45. Mike McCravy of Carroll County claimed second place with a sample of Tift 85 that had an RFQ of 146.5. Swayne Cochran of Jackson County, who submitted a Tift 44 sample with an RFQ of 137.21, was third. Eric Hall of Franklin County (Alicia, 132.68 RFQ) was fourth and Farrell Roberts of Tift County (Coastal, 124.88) was fifth.

Hancock gave a scientific breakdown of the activity that occurs in stored hay when moisture, carbohydrates, oxygen and microorganisms are present. The microorganism feed on the carbohydrates, which generates heat. When the hay temperature approaches 175 degrees it can catch fire. Hancock recommended taking steps to accelerate drying the hay down to the target range (below 20 percent for small rectangular bales, 18 percent for round bales and 15 percent for large rectangular bales), as well as monitoring the heat in stored hay.

“As long as the temperature stays below 125 degrees Fahrenheit, things are safe. There is minimal dry matter loss and it’s not going to catch on fire,” Hancock said. 

Above 125 degrees, a shift to fungi that thrive on heat begins to occur, causing damage to the protein in the hay.

“When you get up into this danger zone here, you really need to be monitoring temperature regularly through the day, two or three times a day, making sure that it’s not getting any hotter,” Hancock said. If the hay temperature is above 160 degrees, Hancock urged farmers to call the fire department before removing bales, which adds oxygen to already flammable conditions.

For more details on how all this occurs, visit


Farm bill, disaster assistance

Georgia Farm Bureau National Affairs Coordinator Tripp Cofield and American Farm Bureau Federation Economist Veronica Nigh gave reviews of activity in Congress and in international trade.

Cofield said the agreement among Farm Bill Conference Committee leadership for the new farm bill, and exactly what the agreement includes won’t be known until the text of the bill is released.

Georgia’s congressional delegation is pushing for hurricane assistance for farmers who sustained losses as a result of Hurricane Michael. Cofield noted that other states are also seeking federal help for other disasters, including the volcanic activity in Hawaii, wildfires in California, typhoons in U.S. territories and earthquakes in Alaska.

“They’re trying to stitch together an assistance package that will work for all these different disasters we’ve had,” Cofield said, noting that a key part of the process is determining accurate damage assessments.

Cofield said the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP) will likely be the primary tool the federal government will use to deliver disaster aid to farmers for immediate crop losses, and block grants may be available to offset longer-term losses.


Pecan prices impacted by Mexican imports

UGA Extension Pecan Specialist Lenny Wells discussed pecan prices, noting that the prices growers are receiving seem to go against normal economic trends.

“With the China trade issues, I thought we would see pecans at somewhat of a lower price this year, but with the loss of half the Georgia crop, it makes no sense that prices have remained as low as they have,” Wells said.  

Wells observed that a bigger issue, thinking long-term, seems to be coming from Mexico. Growers are told when they go to sell their pecans that U.S. shellers are buying so many cheap nuts from Mexico that they won’t pay any higher for pecans grown in the U.S., where production costs are high.

“If this issue is not settled and U.S. shellers continue to buy large volumes of nuts from Mexico, then U.S. pecan growers, especially smaller growers, will not be able to stay in business and the pecans that are sold for domestic use will be of lower quality than what we can grow in the U.S.,” Wells said.

Research, contamination big topics for cotton

Georgia Cotton Commission (GCC) Executive Director Richey Seaton presented the GCC’s efforts to educate, research and promote cotton, emphasizing the importance of research being done by UGA Extension Cotton Specialist Stanley Culpepper on minimizing cotton injury while

treating fields to control Palmer amaranth, as well as studies on how the weight of planting equipment affects soil texture and the uniformity of plant emergence, insecticide resistance and fiber quality.