Tom Hall, Senior Agronomist, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Rooster is following issues that threaten production agriculture, ranking them from 1 (Low Danger) to 5 (Extreme Danger).

The Imminent threats we’re following and changes from previous rankings:

  • Ethanol Outlook: Level 4 ­– High Danger (Previously Level 3 – Considerable Danger)
  • Weed and Insect Resistance: Level 5 – Extreme Danger
  • Animal Ag and Nutrient Management: Level 3 – Considerable Danger (Previously Level 2 – Moderate Danger)
  • Crop Protection Products: Level 2 – Moderate Danger (Previously Level 1 – Low Danger)
  • Senate and House Ag Committee Bipartisanship: Level 1 – Low Danger

Ethanol Outlook: Level 4 – High Danger

The corn ethanol mandate is under political pressure causing us to raise the threat to Level 4 – High Danger. Over the last 12 months the corn ethanol industry has had moments of ups and downs. Last year in the closing days of the Trump Administration the ethanol industry had a down moment with a very low level of support from the Trump USEPA administrator. At about the same time the industry was being hurt because the Covid crisis severely reduced the demand for ethanol and gasoline. Later in the new year the industry’s fortunes went upwards as fuel markets recovered, it received vocal support from the new Biden Administration, and it won a federal court case that limited the USEPA from issuing ethanol blending exemptions to small refineries.

Today the industry is back in a down phase with the Supreme Court overruling the lower courts allowing USEPA to issue exemptions to small refineries.  Corn ethanol is under legislative attack with the introduction of House and Senate Bills to eliminate the corn ethanol fuel mandate. The Senate Bill introduced by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Menendez (D-NJ) preserves a mandate for cellulosic and other biofuels—it only eliminates the corn ethanol mandate.  Here’s a more-detailed analysis of the Attack on Corn Ethanol.

Weed and Insect Resistance: Level 5 – Extreme Danger

Rooster continues to see resistance as an extreme danger for farmers with the ever-evolving resistant insects, nematodes, and weeds with smaller number of chemical and biological control options. There are a few positive developments such as:

  • Early work from Iowa State this summer has shown that trials with heavy corn rootworm pressure were controlled by older Bt proteins pyramided with Cry34/35 Ab1
  • Bayer’s new RNAi product MON 87411 (SmartStax Pro) fully approved earlier this year continues to look promising in controlling rootworms that are resistant to other Bt proteins.
  • Syngenta release of PI89722 that provides protection of soybean cyst nematode. The nematode gene commonly used today PI 88788 has resistance issues across the U.S.

On the negative side: dicamba, an important product to control resistant pigweed, is reported to again be causing off-target injury that puts its EPA label at risk for future renewal. In Arkansas and Tennessee there are field populations of palmer amaranth suspected to be resistant or tolerant to the major post control herbicides dicamba, glufosinate, and 2,4-D.  In a July 26 Extension Bulletin UT Weed Scientist Larry Steckel disturbingly (but not surprisingly) reports he is having trouble controlling palmer amaranth with applications of either 2,4-D and dicamba followed with glufosinate.

With no new soybean post modes of action on the horizon there are three important steps farmers must take to control resistant weeds:

  1. Use full label rates of herbicides.
  2. Apply post sprays on small weeds (less than 6 inches tall).
  3. Use overlapping residuals, apply a pre- herbicide at planting and then in three weeks apply a post- application of another mode of action.

Animal Ag and Nutrient Management: Level 3 – Considerable Danger

The Biden Administration has decided to revise the Clean Water Act, Water of the US (WOTUS) rule that regulates which lakes, streams, and wetlands are regulated by the federal government.  The WOTUS rule recently developed and implemented by the Trump Administration was rejected by the Biden Administration as being too lenient and will undertake a new WOTUS rulemaking process that will take approximately two years.  The largest impact of any new rule is on livestock facilities and landowners that wish to develop their property.  After rejecting the Trump WOTUS rule, the Biden Administration said they would enforce the Obama era rules as they craft its own new WOTUS rule.  A federal court has stopped that effort and said that the Trump rules will remain temporarily in place until the new Biden WOTUS rule is enacted.

A growing threat to the livestock industry is the predicted popularity of the meatless meat products such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger.  The Good Food Institute predicts that the meatless meat industry will grow over the next decade from $1.4 billion to $144 billion, capturing a full third of the global demand. For meat Current meat processors are NOT just waiting for Beyond Meat to crash their business. Prominent processors Tyson, ADM, and JBS have major meatless brands in development or alliances with meatless companies to supply plant or cell-based beef, chicken, and pork.

Crop Protection Products: Level 2 – Moderate Danger

The largest current threat to crop protection chemicals are the civil jury trials that found Monsanto-Bayer glyphosate responsible for causing cancer. The initial case was then followed by thousands of class action suits that Bayer is in the process of settling. Not long after this jury finding, USEPA approved Bayer’s glyphosate label for continued safe use in the U.S. The USEPA finding was recently affirmed by a four-country European Union Commission that also recommended that glyphosate be granted a label when it goes before a full EU committee for approval later this year. As long as pesticides can receive a fair review by regulatory agencies, and the largest threat comes from civil suits, we will continue to rate the threat to crop protection in the low to moderate danger category.

Senate and House Ag Committee Bipartisanship: Level 1 – Low Danger

Activity in the House and Senate Committee is very slow as summer recess approaches.  We are watching to see if the extreme partisanship now on display in Congress bleeds over into the ag committees from issues like budget reconciliation, climate change, the Jan 6 investigation, and voting rights.