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Photo cover by: Andrea Trapp

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Staff Michelle Martin Owner/Editor (956) 330-8870

Al Benavides

Graphic Designer (956) 492-6407

A Letter from the Editor Time is something I think everyone struggles with, from time to time. Since becoming a mother, I sometimes find myself wondering “ what the heck did I do with my time? ” It seems I don’t have enough time in the day.  I think everyone sometime or another has thought to themselves “ I don’t have enough time.” Sometimes we find ourselves so caught up in trying to get our to-do list all done before the sun goes down that we become slaves to Father Time.    February and March are big months for farmers and stock shows. During these months it seems time becomes even a larger factor in our lives. Parents and kids spend countless hours getting their animals ready for the big shows, while managing jobs, housework, homework...and the list goes on. To the farmers, you spend countless hours in the field planting your new crop. To the farmer’s wives, you spend hours taking care of the kids wondering when your husband will return home; the hours can seem endless waiting for him to return home. Some days it feels like time passes too quickly and others it feels like time doesn’t go fast enough.    On show day,  you kids wake up early and prepare your animal. It seems like “forever” getting into that show ring. Your nerves are moving fast but time is crawling, so slow, until you jump into that show ring.  Before you know it, the judge has made his decision and it’s over.  Farmers, you spend countless hours in the field and before you know it in just a couple days your crop has made its way above the soil. You are beginning to see the fruits of your labor.     Time is inevitable and while time is always constant, we are not. Time does not stop because you need more sleep, or because a day didn’t go the way you want. We must keep trucking along.    Our schedules change constantly and we are always on the go. Some things we can change and some things we cannot change,  but one thing to remember is to always dedicate TIME to those you love. Shows will come and go, crops come and go, but one thing that remains constant is God’s love and time. Remember to always make TIME to give thanks to God who makes all things possible. He makes it possible for you to plant your crop, show your animals, have a job, food on your table and so much more.    Even when time isn’t on our side, make sure to make TIME for those who support you, love you and, most importantly, for God.  After all, you never know when your time will run out. 

Owner/Creator of AG MAG

In This Issue: Page 6 Prospects for higher grain prices in 2017 Page 9 Texas Shrimp Lover’s Recipe Page 10 Ag Mag Interview Questions on Food Safety Modernization Act Page 14 Help save the American Farmer Page 16 Featured Farmer Story

Page 20 Page 22 Page 26 Page 30 Page 32 Page 34 Page 40 Page 43 Page 47 Page 50 Page 52 Page 56 Page 61 Page 62 Page 64 Page 68 Page 74

Paving the way with Prukop

Cattle Fever Ticks Molecular diagnostics strengthens USDA’s safeguarding capabilities It’s all about the cattle FFA & 4-H Calendar of Activities FFA/4-H student Q&A Willacy, Hidalgo, Cameron Co. Shows! RGVLS Schedule of Events Careers in Agriculture Star Gala 2017 Area farmer’s tour Australia’s Riverina They call the thing Livestock Show Worst Case Scenario by Kurt Schuster 1st Annual Special Show 2017 Weslaco FFA Booster Club RGV Sugar Growers: Showing the World how sweet Texas is Bridging the Disconnect – School Kida Learn About Growing Food Smokin’ On The Rio

Volume 3, Issue 4. March/April 2017. No part of this publication can be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Ag Mag reserves the right to edit, rewrite or refuse editorial materials and assumes no responsibility for accuracy, errors, omissions or consequence arising from it. All correspondence to the publication become the property of Ag Mag. Ag Mag is published bi-monthly ©2017. To advertise in Ag Mag, call (956) 330-8870 or email

Prospects for Higher Grain Prices in 2017 bY DR. MARK WELCH , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Economist

U.S. grain prices generally have been on the decline since 2012, the year of a major drought in the Midwest. Average cash prices are now the lowest in 10 years. What are the prospects for higher grain prices in 2017? While many factors will ultimately impact the price of grain or any other commodity (e.g. trade policy, macroeconomic forces, value of the dollar), this article will look at the basic fundamental factors that drive prices: supply and demand. Our focus will be on the corn market since it is the grain with the highest production in the world and sets the price path for many other grains, especially sorghum. Grain demand is strong. Since the early 2000s, world per capita grain consumption has increased from 340 kg per person per year (about 750 pounds) to over 390 kg (862 pounds), an increase of 4 kg (8 pounds) per person per year. In the 25 years prior to that, per capita consumption was basically flat. Then the combination of computer and information technology combined with low wage rates to boost productivity in emerging and developing economies. Productivity gains raised average incomes in those nations



and grain use began to rise. In addition, U.S. biofuel policy increased corn for fuel from 2 billion bushels to over 5 billion from 2006 to 2010. That increased demand supported consumption during a period in which prices were rising. Supplies are large. In response to higher grain prices during the ethanol boom, world corn production increased from 28 billion bushels in 2006 to 41 billion bushels in 2016, a 46% increase. Corn ending stocks are at record high levels, 8.7 billion bushels. But the stocks to use ratio, which measures grain stock levels as a percentage of consumption, even with record production and record stocks, is unchanged the last 3 years. We have kept up with demand several great production years in a row. Looking towards the 2017 crop, first on the market will be the crop from South America. Corn acres are at record high levels in Brazil and Argentina and crop conditions are mostly favorable. That means a sizable increase in the corn crop compared to last year when portions of corn production in Brazil were hit by drought. Indications are that U.S. corn acres will be down. The price

of soybeans relative to corn at this point in the season creates a situation in which soybeans will likely be more profitable than corn for many producers. The average U.S. corn yield in 2016 was 174.6 bushels per acre, an all-time record high. A trend line yield estimate for 2017 (a statistical straight line drawn through the actual corn yields since 1960) suggests a normal yield next year would be about 167 bushels per acre. So with fewer acres and a normal yield, corn production in the U.S. will be down in 2017. Since most of the corn grown in the U.S. is consumed domestically, even if world corn production makes up for some of the difference, prices should be moderately higher next year compared to 2016, though likely still below the cost of production. That creates two primary challenges for U.S. grain producers. One, be the low cost producer. That doesn’t necessarily mean spend less money; it means be as efficient as possible with all farm inputs, variable and fixed costs, to lower the cost of production per unit. Get the breakeven price down.

Second, have a financial plan in place. Know your cost of production, develop a marketing plan, know what a profitable price looks like and be prepared to use the marketing tools and strategies to lock in that price when the market offers it to you. It takes time to monitor markets and learn about alternative marketing strategies and more efficient production practices. It takes discipline to put together a production and marketing plan and carry it out. It takes relationships with all the partners in our operations—our suppliers, our buyers, our bankers, our crop insurance agents, and others—to communicate about threats and opportunities to better manage the dynamics of production and pricing. But I believe these are the keys to creating a sustainable competitive advantage for long term survival in agriculture.

Figure 1. World Per Capita Grain Use




p m i r h S s a x e T s ’ r e v o L

Cilantro Lime Pickled

Texas Wild Caught Shrimp The shrimp will stay fresh for up to five days in the marinate refrigerated, and the flavors will continue to build. Serves four or five as an appetizer


1 teaspoon 2 teaspoons 1 teaspoon 2 tbsp ½ ¼ teaspoon ½ teaspoon ¼ cup 1 teaspoon ¼ cup ½ cup 1 pound ½ 1

fresh garlic, peeled and minced kosher or sea salt sugar fresh cilantro, minced small fresh jalapeno, minced celery seed black pepper lime juice, fresh squeezed fresh lime zest rice wine vinegar or quality white wine vinegar Texas olive oil medium size Texas Wild Caught Shrimp, fully cooked and peeled small red onion, peeled & sliced thinly large ripe avocado Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper crisp tortilla chips

Preparation • In a medium size bowl, stir together garlic, salt, sugar, cilantro, jalapeno, celery seed, pepper, lime juice and zest as well as the rice wine vinegar. • Whisk in the olive oil to the mixture to create the marinate. • Place the shrimp and onions in the bowl and toss with the marinate. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or lid and set in the refrigerator for 24 hours for the flavors to meld. Stir the ingredients a couple of time during the process. • Just prior to serving, peel the avocado and cut into half inch cubes. Season the avocado with a little salt and pepper. Serve the shrimp chilled, alongside the diced avocado and tortilla chips. MARCH/APRIL



Ag Mag Interview Questions on the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Rule


Q: What is the Produce Rule and how does it relate to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)?

A: The goal of the Food Safety Modernization Act – Produce

Rule is to shift food safety regulations from a system that focuses on responding to contaminations to one that focuses on preventing them. The Produce Rule which is Rule 7 of FSMA is designed to help accomplish this goal by establishing standards for water quality, microbial standards for manure and compost, standards for sprouts, standards for produce that might be contaminated by domestic and wild animals, standards for workers training, health, and hygiene, and preventative standards related to equipment, tools, and buildings.

Q: Why is the Texas Department of Agriculture A:

(TDA) involved?

At the request of industry and the Texas Department of State Health Service TDA got involved with this program. Industry felt they would rather have TDA on their farms rather than the FDA. Texas Department of State Health Services felt they did not have the agricultural experience to handle the program. Through a cooperative agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), TDA and FDA work together to advance efforts for a nationally integrated food safety system through the planning, establishment and/or enhancement of State and Territory Produce Safety Programs that encourage the safe production of fresh fruits and vegetables and to promote understanding and compliance with the requirements of the Produce Rule. TDA will create the necessary infrastructure and conduct grower outreach, education and inspections based on the Food Safety Modernization Act-Produce Rule.

Q: Which produce is subject to the Produce Rule? A: All types of produce are covered by the rule except as provided by specific exemptions from the rule. Exemptions include produce that:

● Is grown for personal or on-farm consumption ● Is not a “raw agricultural commodity.” (A raw agricultural commodity is any food in its raw or natural state ● Will receive commercial processing that adequately reduces microorganisms of public health concern (e.g., through use of a “kill step”) is eligible for exemption under certain conditions (including keeping certain documentation). ● Is on the “rarely consumed raw” list. The “rarely consumed raw” list is exhaustive and contains the following fruits and vegetables: asparagus; black beans, great Northern beans, kidney beans,



lima beans, navy beans, and pinto beans; garden beets (roots and tops) and sugar beets; cashews; sour cherries; chickpeas; cocoa beans; coffee beans; collards; sweet corn; cranberries; dates; dill (seeds and weed); eggplants; figs; horseradish; hazelnuts; lentils; okra; peanuts; pecans; peppermint; potatoes; pumpkins; winter squash; sweet potatoes; and water chestnuts. ● The content of this list in the final rule is somewhat different from the proposed version. These changes were made in response to public comments and based on FDA’s analysis of available data. For example, Brussels sprouts and kale were removed from the proposed list, and pecans were added to the final list.

Q: Does TDA have a timeline for implementation? A: TDA has developed the Office of Produce Safety and is

working with partners and stakeholders to begin building an inventory of farms. TDA is working with our partners to begin the information phase of the program. There are staggered compliance dates based on farm size. Large farms (>$500k gross yearly sales) are expected to be fully compliant by 2020, small farms ($250k $500k) by 2021, and very small farms ($25k - $250k) by 2022. For more information, see Compliance Date Extensions and Clarifications for FSMA Final Rules.

Q: What do producers need to do to be compliant? A: The first step to be compliant is to visit the TDA website at and complete the Farm Inventory Survey. Key Requirements of the FSMA – Produce Rule

1. Agricultural Water – Water quality: The final rule adopts the general approach to water quality proposed in the supp-lemental rule, with some changes. The final rule establishes two sets of criteria for microbial water quality, both of which are based on the presence of generic E. coli, which can indicate the presence of fecal contamination. For more information, see Compliance Date Extensions and Clarifications for FSMA Final Rules. 2. Biological Soil Amendments – A soil amendment is a

material, including manure that is intentionally added to the soil to improve its chemical or physical condition for growing plants or to improve its capacity to hold water.At this time, the FDA does not object to farmers complying with the USDA’s National Organic Program standards, which call for a 120-day interval between the application of raw manure for crops in contact with the soil and 90 days for crops not in contact with the soil. For more information, see Compliance Date Extensions and Clarifications for FSMA Final Rules.

3. Sprouts – The final rule includes new requirements to help

prevent the contamination of sprouts, which have been frequently associated with foodborne illness outbreaks. TDA is currently working with the Department of State Health Services to determine which agency will handle sprouts. For more information, see Compliance Date Extensions and Clarifications for FSMA Final Rules.

4. Domesticated and Wild Animals – The rule addresses

concerns about the feasibility of compliance for farms that rely on grazing animals (such as livestock) or working animals for various purposes. It establishes the same standards for these animals as it does for intrusion by wild animals (such as deer or feral swine). Farmers are required to take all measures reasonably necessary to identify and not harvest produce that is likely to be contaminated. For more information, see Compliance Date Extensions and

Clarifications for FSMA Final Rules.

5. Worker Training and Health and Hygiene – Requirements for health and hygiene include: Taking measures to prevent contamination of produce and food-contact surfaces by ill or infected persons, for example, instructing personnel to notify their supervisors if they may have a health condition that may result in contamination of covered produce or food contact surfaces. For more information, see Compliance Date Extensions and Clarifications for FSMA Final Rules. 6. Equipment, Tools and Buildings – The rule establishes

standards related to equipment, tools and buildings to prevent these sources, and inadequate sanitation, from contaminating produce. This section of the rule covers, for example, greenhouses, germination chambers, and other such structures, as well as toilet and hand-washing facilities. For more information, see Compliance Date Extensions and Clarifications for FSMA Final Rules.

The rule does not apply to: A. Produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity. (A raw

agricultural commodity is any food in its raw or natural state) The following produce commodities that FDA has identified as rarely consumed raw: asparagus; black beans, great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, and pinto beans; garden beets (roots and tops) and sugar beets; cashews; sour cherries; chickpeas; cocoa beans; coffee beans; collards; sweet corn; cranberries; dates; dill (seeds and weed); eggplants; figs; horseradish; hazelnuts; lentils; okra; peanuts; pecans; peppermint; potatoes; pumpkins; winter squash; sweet potatoes; and water chestnuts.

B. Food grains, including barley, dent-or flint-corn, sorghum, oats, rice, rye, wheat, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, and oilseeds (e.g. cotton seed, flax seed, rapeseed, soybean, and sunflower seed)

C. Produce that is used for personal or on-farm consumption D. Farms that have an average annual value of produce sold during the previous three-year period of $25,000 or less. E. The rule provides an exemption for produce that receives commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms of public health significance, under certain conditions. For more information, see Compliance Date Extensions and Clarifications for FSMA Final Rules.

Q: What is going to be TDA’s focus as the new Produce Rule is implemented?

A: Initially, TDA’s main focus will be in providing informa-

tion and outreach to producers. TDA’s goal is to inform, prepare, and keep producers aware of any changes that may have to be made before implementation deadlines. Producers should reach out to TDA’s Office of Produce Safety website located at and complete the Farm Inventory Survey to begin receiving updates.

Q: Where can producers go to find more information? A: More information is available on our website:







Help savethe American Farmer


resident Donald Trump hasn’t been shy about discussing partnerships and trade agreements made in past years that he believes needs to be renegotiated, revamped or updated in some ways. In fact, under the section “Trade Deals That Work For All Americans” at it states: 

into effect in 1994 and, according to “creating one of the world’s largest free trade zones and laying the foundations for strong economic growth and rising prosperity for Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Since then, NAFTA has demonstrated how free trade increases wealth and competitiveness, delivering real benefits to families, farmers, workers, manufacturers, and consumers.”

“With a lifetime of negotiating experience, the President understands how critical it is to put American workers and businesses first when it comes to trade. With tough and fair agreements, international trade can be used to grow our economy, return millions of jobs to America’s shores, and revitalize our nation’s suffering communities. This strategy starts by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and making certain that any new trade deals are in the interests of American workers. President Trump is committed to renegotiating NAFTA. If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the President will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.”

However, according to many growers and producers in South Texas, it’s time for some NAFTA upgrades.

NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, came



“Mexican producers are hurting Texas producers; not only Texas producers but in other areas as well,” said Will Steele, President of Frontera Produce “Prior to NAFTA there were imports from Mexico, but if you brought product in from Mexico that we were producing at the same time in the United States, there was a tariff or duty on the product. That made is prohibitive for the Mexicans to grow watermelon at the same time we grew watermelons, so they wouldn’t do it.” The effect ends up being a market that is over saturated with a product – which for this story we will use watermelon as an example. When supply far outweighs demand, it lowers prices. Farmers say they are already not profiting when it

comes to watermelon sales so when Mexico is selling at a much lower cost, it forces the hand of the U.S. Farmer. “When growers in Sonora are bringing watermelons up through Nogales – and they are planting way too many acres - they are dumping the product in the U.S. at far below the cost of our production,” said Tony Anderson, owner of What A Melon. “We need some type of program to protect the American farmers from Mexico dumping their product here below cost. When prices get too low in the U.S. people quit harvesting the product or slow it down.” According to Anderson, the average break-even point for watermelon planting, harvesting and packing is about 15 cents per pound. The average price sold in Nogales is 10 center per pound. When both are growing watermelons at the same time, and with no regulations, the American farmer finds himself on an unlevel playing field.

But that theory runs both ways. “We can’t continue to allow someone to encroach on our windows of opportunity and then oversaturate the market,” Steele said. “Our industry is based on supply and demand – people traded food before they traded automobiles. The way this free trade is set up is hurting everyone, not just us.” As an example, Steele said that the same way watermelon farmers are being hurt by Mexican growers flooding our market, the U.S has large midwest farmers that are subsidized by the government and grow soybean, corn and grain and over saturate the Mexico market, damaging Mexican growers.

Jimmy and Diane Bassetti are owners of J&D produce. They have operations in the Rio Grande Valley, South New Jersey and Coahila, Mexico – even though that one is currently idle due to violence in the area. Jimmy believes there are several options to look at when it comes to restructuring NAFTA.

“There is definitely a place for produce from Mexico into the U.S.,” Anderson said, stressing the fact that it’s not a conflict really between the two countries but more something set up by rules that don’t create a fair playing field. “From November through April almost all the watermelons in the U.S. Will come from Mexico or offshore. Their product is important for us so we can provide year round supplies to our customers.” Steele said Mexico can sell their produce at a lower price mainly because of a much lower cost of labor.

“I don’t think it should be called ‘free trade’ but fair trade. I think it’s out of date and there are improvements that could be made to help the U.S. growers,” Jimmy said. “Whether it’s a duty or tariff tax that would be imposed during months we are growing a certain product, I don’t know. Maybe there could be government incentives when it’s available to purchase U.S. products over less expensive Mexico products.”

“They’re looking at $10 a day and we’re paying $10 an hours – that’s the biggest input for cost we have,” he said. Sure their petrol might be higher but there is no comparison, and with the drop in the peso our dollar is stretching farther for them. They’re saying the are having to pay for for good labor right now and that’s true, but they’re also getting more out of that dollar.

“It’s hard for a retailer to not purchase a product that’s less expensive. They’re concern is if they don’t buy it, their competitor will – so how can they then compete?”

“If all things were equal and if we are going to have a lasing game to see who is going to win, they are. Our argument is lets take care of our own first. We are a dying breed. We haven’t been profitable in a long, long time and our farmers are going way. We are responsible for feeding America. The consumer wants America first product. If we don’t find a way to protect ourselves and stay in business we will be relying on foreign producing food and we will have no control over safety or quality.”

Area growers are quick to give praise to Mexican growers, saying that most are responsible and understanding and respectful when it comes to the time frame for Americanproduce seasons. But whether it’s watermelon or honeydews or onions – whatever the product is, if it becomes over saturated due to imports, the end result is a struggling farming community.




Ag Mag Featured Farmer

Paving the way with



ne thing’s for certain when it comes to farmers. They know their history – where they come from and what their ancestors did are part of their ongoing lives. John Prukop is a perfect example. Prukop, who lives in Bishop, grew up in McCook, where his grandfather first moved to (before it was actually named McCook) and bought 312 acres. According to a historical writeup by John Prukop, “ not only was Frank the first person to buy land in McCook, he was one of the first Polish American’s to settle in the Rio Grande Valley ”. But John Prukop goes deeper into his genealogy and ancestry. “My great uncle Richard Maron told me the story about my great grandfather, John Prukop, who drove cattle on horseback,” John writes. “He drove cattle from Texas to Kansas for market.” It all began when a Polish priest by the name of Monsignor Thomas J. Moczygemba visited Texas from his homestead in Kansas. Upon his return home, he was



so impressed with Texas that he “convinced several groups of Polish Americans to try settling in Karnes County. They arrived on wagon trains and many of them walked.” Upon their arrival, the groups settled in different areas. Among those were Prukop’s ancestors, who settled in Yorktown – thus begins the Texas saga of the Prukop family. “My grandfather (Frank) cleared Mesquite trees and brush around McCook,” John said. “My dad farmed in McCook and during my high school years I just helped dad. We’ve farmed all our lives.” Now John farms in Nueces, Kleberg, Duval, Jim Wells and Hidalgo counties, harvesting sorghum, cotton, peas, watermelons and, on occasion, sesame. “My favorite thing is probably watermelons,” John said. “I guess it’s because it’s a challenging crop. There’s always something different with them, a new disease or a new trial. Other crops, you plant seeds,

watch them and cultivate them with a machine. With watermelon you need more expertise and have to have people lined up and good weather. It’s a more challenging crop, but it’s also a more rewarding crop if everything works right.” Farming in the Rio Grande Valley began with John’s grandfather, Frank, who moved the family from Yorktown in 1928 to the land he had bought a few years earlier in McCook. Obviously, traveling wasn’t as convenient back then, especially moving into virtually unchartered lands.

“The sand was so bad that his (Frank’s) sons had to place a tarp in front of the car,” John wrote. “Crossing over the sand hills between Falfurrias and San Manuel took several hours.” Finally, upon settling, the farming and livestock business began. In 1929 the Prokups started growing crops for the market.

When John’s dad was 11 years old, Frank (grandfather) died of complications from an ulcer surgery. The seven children; four brothers (Philip, Frank Jr., Conrad and Emil) and three sisters (Sophi, Irene and Hattie) continued to work the farm. Eventually, they ended up buying more land and all four brothers continue to farm. Philip is still farming in McCook.





Fever Ticks

bY SONJA L. SWIGER, Assistant Professor and Extension Livestock/Veterinary Entomologist

Disease spread The disease is spread by two species, the cattle fever tick (Rhipicephalus annulatus) and the southern cattle tick (Rhipicephalus microplus). After the adult ticks mate, the female feeds on the host until it is fully engorged with blood. Then it drops to the ground, lays up to 4,000 eggs, and dies. The eggs hatch into nymphs, which crawl onto tall vegetation and attach to a host animal that walks by. The fever tick life cycle ranges from 3 to 4 weeks, and up to four generations can be produced each year.

Prevention After buying livestock, do not commingle them with the existing herd until you are sure that they are free of diseases and pests. Unfed cattle tick adults are brown, oval, and up to 0.2 inch long; engorged adult females can reach almost ½ inch long. Grooves run lengthwise down the back (Fig. 1). The ticks are typically found from the dewlap to the perianal area and more specifically in the region from the elbow to the stifle and on the inside of the hind legs. However, when infestations are heavy ticks may be found anywhere on the body. To keep fever tick populations from building up on your property, report any unusual or suspicious pest infestation to your veterinarian or the regional office of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) immediately. Another preventive measure is the establishment of a buffer zone on the Texas–Mexico border. More than half a million acres have been designated as the Permanent Fever Tick Quarantine Zone, that separates Mexico, where cattle ticks



Cattle fever ticks pose a significant health threat to U.S. cattle and, if not controlled, could cost livestock producers an estimated $1 billion. The ticks can carry parasites that cause cattle fever, a significant and often fatal disease in livestock. The disease causes anemia, rapid breathing, weight loss, decreased milk production, and death. Of the infected cattle that have not been exposed to the disease previously, 70 to 90 percent die. The ticks also affect horses, white-tailed deer, nilgai antelope, exotic hoofstock, and red deer. Because no vaccine or cure has been found for tick fever, the best available management tools are prevention, quarantine of tick-infested cattle, and tick control on cattle and deer.

Quarantine If fever ticks are found on your livestock or wildlife, the premises—including property, livestock, and wildlife—will be placed under quarantine immediately. Animals may not be moved from the area or nearby land without inspection and approval from TAHC or USDA inspectors. An area outside the permanent quarantine zone where a cattle fever tick has been discovered is designated as a Control Purpose Quaran-

If fever ticks are found on your livestock or wildlife, the premises—including property, livestock, and wildlife—will be placed under quarantine immediately. Animals may not be moved from the area or nearby land without inspection and approval from TAHC or USDA inspectors. An area outside the permanent quarantine zone where a cattle fever tick has been discovered is designated as a Control Purpose Quarantine Area. The boundaries are set according to local barriers and conditions that could affect the spread of ticks from the area.

Four categories of properties may be quarantined for cattle fever ticks:

u Infested premises, on which fever ticks have been detected on livestock or wildlife u Adjacent premises, the areas closest to exposed or infested premises, including those separated by roads, double fences, or fordable streams. TAHC employees will contact the owners of adjacent premises near infested premises. u Exposed premises, sites where the ticks have been detected on livestock or wildlife, and treatment has begun but not completed u Check premises: properties in a tick-eradication area but not classified as infested, exposed, or adjacent

If the situation becomes more complex, one or a cluster of control purpose areas are designated as a Temporary Preventative Quarantine Area. Stricter regulations as well as public awareness efforts will follow.

Tick Control If cattle fever ticks are found on an animal on your premises, a Texas Animal Health Control (TAHC) representative will create an action plan to rid the animals and your property of fever ticks. The most common options: 1) Injectable doramectin: A ready-to-use injectable is given every 25 to 28 days for 6 to 9 months. This treatment kills the ticks and relieves the stress of cattle being dipped and/or moved from the premises. It costs substantially less than dipping and nearly halves the number of times that the cattle must be gathered during the quarantine period. 2) Scheduled dipping: Cattle are dipped every 7 to 14 days (based on the fever tick life cycle) for 6 to 9 months. Quarantined cattle will be sprayed on the ranch or trucked to an authorized dipping vat, where 100 percent of the herd will be treated under the supervision of a TAHC or USDA inspector. The animals are then returned to their pasture to collect more ticks before the next dipping. This procedure will be repeated as needed for 6 to 9 months until a pasture is confirmed to be “clean” of fever ticks. 3) Vacating premises: Ranchers “starve out” the ticks by removing the hosts. First, the cattle are dipped every 7 to 14 days until they are considered free of ticks. After two consecutive tick-free inspections and a dipping, the cattle are moved to a new, tick-free pasture. The infested pasture will then be left empty for 9 months. Although more economical for some ranchers, this method is not necessarily the most effective at controlling the fever tick. Untreated free-ranging deer and exotics could still have access to the pastures and sustain the fever tick life cycle. Property owners do not have to pay for TAHC inspections or treatments. MARCH/APRIL



s c i t s o n g a i D r a Molecul s ’ A D S U s n e h t g Stren y t i l i b a p a C g n i d Safeguar bY RAUL RUIZ-ARCE, Geneticist

The USDA-APHISPPQ Analyzes Fruit Flies’ DNA to Determine Pest Origin


he USDA Mission Laboratory, located in Edinburg, Tx. houses cutting edge science technology. Geneticist, Dr. Raul Ruiz-Arce has developed molecular diagnostic methods used in analyzing the DNA of various fruit fly species, including Mexican fruit fly (Anastrepha ludens) and others captured in agricultural growing areas such as the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), Tx. and intercepted on fruits at U.S. ports of entry. Dr. Ruiz-Arce wasn’t merely interested in confirming the species identification, which is also important and necessary, he wanted to determine as closely as possible where the flies originated. His analyses used methods that target informative DNAs (mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA) and computational methods used in an identification process. Determining an infestation’s source can help the USDA and agencies within regions such as the LRGV find and close a serious pest pathway, alert U.S. ports of entry about high-risk commodities from that source, and improve the focus of offshore clearance resources in infested countries. In addition, APHIS’ International Services could offer those countries pest management and eradication assistance. This would assist in minimizing additional infestations seen on U.S. soil. Accomplishing this level of source determination has been possible only recently. First, Dr. Ruiz-Arce needed to build a genetic



Recent molecular diagnostics successes underscore the USDA’s continued expansion of this technology and its ability to deliver actionable information to safeguard U.S. agriculture and natural resources here in Texas

PHOTO: Geneticist Raul Ruiz-Arce compared the genetics of intercepted fruit flies against information in a global pest genetic database, helping him determine the geographic source.

database of pest specimens from around the world to help match the genetics of intercepted pests. Collaborating USDA scientists and cooperators traveled internationally to collect specimens, with additional collections provided by universities submitted other samples. Using the database as a reference, Dr. Ruiz-Arce can exclude entire continents as a possible pest sources and narrow the search using computational methods to a specific region or individual country. The Mission Lab has already provided identification and source estimation services for various captures from the LRGV, currently battling a Mexican fruit fly outbreak on the western end of the region, to get a sense of its infestation’s diversity and geographic source.

It’s All About the





e averaged 1000hd per week for the month of January. The freeze combined with drought like conditions have kept the Cattle Numbers steady in our area. Despite the tough weather conditions the overall cattle prices have been in our favor.

cattle are going to bring, I usually reply with all do respect, “Exactly what they are worth for that day” GCLA is confident that we have the buyers and market in place to ensure a fair and consistent market for you to sell your cattle. Our job is to promote and referee the market process for the sellers and buyers alike.

THE MARKET was like melting crisco in a cast iron pan, it was hot! Buyers were coming to the cattle, especially the quality ones, and we had plenty of those kind to choose from. When producers ask me what their

We have seen an upward trend of prices on all classes of bred females and replacement type heifers. That is always a good sign for the industry. A contributing factor to the increase in price is the higher value of


the stocker and feeder calves. Great beef demand has jumped over the sales counter into the ring causing buyers to aggressively fill orders.


of cattle Is still the biggest determining factor in the marketing of your calves. When your calf pops into the ring and the buyers hone in on him, that’s the moment when it counts the most. Fifteen month process bottle rocketed into seven seconds in the ring. Don’t bring a dud to town, invest in a choice bull and enjoy the fireworks.




FFA&4-H 2 017




March 9-19, 2017


March 30, 2017

RGV District Meeting La Negra Cattle Co.

April 27, 2017

State CDE (Tarleton State University) Stephenville 8am

April 28, 2017

South Texas Invitational CDE

State CDE (Sam Houston State University)

Jourdanton 8am

Huntsville 8am

April 12, 2017

April 29, 2017

April 5, 2017

Area X CDE’s

RMB Fair Grounds 8am

April 22, 2017

State CDE (Texas Tech University) Lubbock April 25, 2017

RGV District Check RGVLS 10am

State CDE (Texas A&M University)

College Station 8am

May (TBA)

RGV District Banquet Time TBA

May (TBA)

Area X Officer Interviews/ Testing/ Prep Time Time TBA







Sponsored by:

March 8-19, 2017

Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show & Rodeo

RGVLS Grounds - Mercedes March 28, 2017

County Council Meeting

Extension Office 7pm April 1, 2017

District 12 Fashion Sensation Leming, TX Time TBA April 5-11, 2017

District 12 Photography Contest

April 8, 2017

District 12 Roundup – Educational Presentations Kingsville, TX Time TBA April 25, 2017

Project Development Committee Meeting Extension Office 6pm April 26, 2017

Paper Clover Campaign begins – Support the Clover! Tractor Supply (3 locations) Store Hours





4-H & FFA


with student Charles Christopher Lee

Name: Charles Christopher Lee Age: 17 School: Homeschool College Plans: Biomedical Science Major, Eventually become a Doctor of Genetics 4H Chapter: Valley West 4-H FFA Chapter : N/A Positions held: Club: President Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Reporter, Parliamentarian, Hidalgo County 4-H Delegate. Hidalgo County 4-H Council: District Delegate, Treasurer, 1st Vice President.Texas Quarter Horse Youth Association: Reporter, Vice President, President.










Q: What do you show? A: I currently show Horses and swine. I also partici-

pate in Photography, Horticulture, 4-H Round Up in Educational Presentation, and 4-H Food Show.

Q: What are some of your favorite things about 4-H? A: One of my favorite things in 4-H is seeing all of your

hard work pay off in the show ring, whether be with animals or with other projects such as Photography. It feels good to show to the best of your ability and be rewarded for that hard work. Another one of my favorite things is going to the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show every year and meeting up with old friends and making new ones.

Q: Why did you decide to be a part of the organization? A: I joined 4-H for one reason…’s a family affair!

My mom was a 4-H member in Nebraska. She wanted my sisters, Claire and Charylet, and I to be able to learn so many things from an organization that she learned so much from. Even though I was pretty much born into it, I’m glad she put me in 4-H. I don’t know what I would have done without it.

32 Ag Mag









Q: What have you learned about being involved A:

in such great organizations?

One thing I have learned about being involved in 4-H is you can do anything in 4-H. 4-H has so many opportunities to offer to its members and it’s an organization that not very many people know about. I have also learned that 4-H teaches you skills that are applicable in life. 4-H creates networking opportunities that last a lifetime.

Q: What type of skills have you acquired through A:

they will help you in your future career. One thing that is most difficult about being involved in 4-H is logis tics. My specialty is Horses. Even though there are a lot of horses in our area, it’s very difficult to partake in 4-H Equine Sanctioned Events. I must travel long distances.

Q: How has being involved prepared you for A:

out your time in organizations?

Throughout my time in 4-H, I have learned so many valuable skills. Some of these skills include Leader ship Skills, Teamwork, Time Management, Animal Husbandry, Animal Welfare, Organizational Skills, and so much more. The list would keep on growing with so many more skills, I don’t think it would fit the page!

I love showing them because it allows me to skillfully show my horse to the best of my ability and theirs. I am kind of a perfectionist, so showing horses gives me that ability to work hard and perfect every maneuver at home so I am ready when I show. I am EXTREMELY Competitive.

“A leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” – John C. Maxwell

Many people who are associated with agriculture don’t understand the concepts of “Showing animals.” If you could describe what showing animals does for you as a person or why you do it in two sentences what would they be? I show animals because it teaches me life lessons that I could never learn in school. The lessons I learn prepared me for the biggest show of all…

Mentor or person you look up to?

Q: What type of skills have you acquired through A:

out your time in organizations?

Throughout my time in 4-H, I have learned so many valuable skills. Some of these skills include Leader ship Skills, Teamwork, Time Management, Animal Husbandry, Animal Welfare, Organizational Skills, and so much more. The list would keep on growing with so many more skills, I don’t think it would fit the page!

Q: What has been the most difficult thing about being A:

involved in 4-H, and what is the most rewarding?

Being involved in 4-H has prepared me in a variety of ways. The skills that I have learned through 4-H such as Organizational Skills, Teamwork, Animal Hus bandry, Animal Welfare, and Politics, will serve me well as I enter my adult life. I plan on majoring in Bio medical Sciences which will eventually lead me to my goal as Doctor of Genetics.

Q: Favorite thing to show and why? A: If people know me, they know I love to show horses.


There are definitely so many people that I look up to. My parents, of course, have always been role models in my life. I can’t name a time where I didn’t learn something from them, so my parents are my role models.

the future?

Q: What advice can you give to a young child who is just starting their 4-H or FFA career?

1. Dream Big 2. Hard Work DEFINETLY pays off. 3. Stay in 4-H for as long as possible. You have no idea how many doors 4-H can open for you. 4. Remember, 4-H is what you make it!

Q: If you were given 4 words to describe your A:

experience what would they be?

Life Changing, Inspiring, Awesome, Gratitude

Q: 4 words to describe yourself A: Intelligent, Loyal, Friendly, Hard Working

One of the most rewarding things about being in 4-H is the satisfaction that you will have the skills to be successful in life. I cannot stress enough that 4-H gives you an opportunity to learn these skills and MARCH/APRIL





34 Ag Mag







Schedule of Events


WEDNESDAY, March 8th 7:00 p.m. — Jr. Santa Gertrudis Futurity (Event Center Arena) THURSDAY, MARCH 9TH 8:30 a.m. — Judging of Jr. Santa Gertrudis (Event Center Arena) 1:00 p.m. — Judging of Jr. Beefmaster (Event Center Arena) 4:00 p.m. — Judging of Jr. Charolais (Event Center Arena) 5:00 p.m. — Judging of Jr. AOB (Event Center Arena) FRIDAY, MARCH 10TH 9:00 a.m. — Judging of Jr. Commercial Heifers Sponsored by Texas Farm Credit (Event Cen ter Arena) NOON — Judging of the Jr. Longhorn Show (Event Center) 2:00 p.m. — Judging of Beefmaster Open Show (Event Center Arena) 4:00 p.m. — Judging of AOB Open Show (Event Center Arena) 6:00 p.m. — Open Commercial & Purebred Female Pen Show Sponsored by Lyssy & Eckel Feed, Cameron–Hidalgo–Starr–Willacy County Farm Bureau (Commercial Cattle Barn) SATURDAY, MARCH 11TH 8:00 a.m. — Judging of Santa Gertrudis Open Show

40 Ag Mag


(Event Center Arena) NOON — Judging of Open Commercial Heifers (Event Center Arena) 1:00 p.m. — Judging of Open Boer Goat Show Spon sored by Texas Farm Credit (North Barn Arena) 3:00 p.m. — Judging of Longhorn Open Show (Event Center Arena) 5:00 p.m. — Jr. Breeding Gilt Showmanship (Event Center Hog Arena) 5:00 p.m. — Beefmaster Futurity (Event Center Arena) SUNDAY, MARCH 12th 8:00 a.m. — Judging of Jr. Breeding Sheep Followed by Showmanship (North Barn Arena) 9:00 a.m. — Classifying and Judging of Jr. Breeding Gilts (Event Center Hog Arena) 10:00 a.m. — Judging of Jr. Breeding Rabbits Followed by Showmanship Sponsored by Capital Farm Credit (Rabbit Arena) 10:00 a.m. — Jr. Breeding Cattle Showmanship Finals Sponsored by Cameron–Hidalgo– Starr–Willacy County Farm Bureau (Event Center Arena) 1:00 p.m. — Judging of Jr. Breeding Goats Followed by Showmanship Sponsored by Cameron–Hidalgo–Starr–Willacy County Farm Bureau (North Barn Arena) MONDAY, MARCH 13 8:00 a.m. — RGV Open & Youth Horse Show Speed Events (Payne Auto Group Rodeo Arena) Sponsored by Whataburger,

Gillman Auto Group, First Community Bank, & Anderson Bean Boot Company TUESDAY, MARCH 14 8:00 a.m. — Judging of Market Rabbits Followed by Showmanship (Rabbit Arena) 8:00 a.m. — RGV Open & Youth Horse Show Performance Events (Payne Auto Group Rodeo Arena) Sponsored by Gillman Auto Group, First Community Bank, & Anderson Bean Boot Company 6:00 p.m. — Rio Grande Valley Brahman & F1 Association Jr. Showmanship Clinic & Show (Event Center Arena) WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15 7:30 a.m. — Judging of Jr. ARB (Event Center Arena) 8:00 a.m. — Judging of Market Lambs (North Barn Arena) 9:00 a.m. — Judging of Jr. Brahman-Zebu (Event Center Arena) 11:00 a.m. — Judging of Jr. Simmental (Event Center Arena) 1:00 p.m. — Judging of Market Goats (North Barn Arena) 1:00 p.m. — Judging of Jr. Simbrah (Event Center Arena) 4:00 p.m. — Judging of Market Hogs: Duroc, Dark OPB, Light OPB, Yorkshire (Event Center Hog Arena) 5:00 p.m. — Judging of Jr. Red Brangus (Event Center Arena) 7:00 p.m. — Judging of Market Poultry (Event Center Arena)

(Event Center Arena) 1:00 p.m. — Judging of Simbrah Open Show (Event Center Arena) 5:00 p.m. — Judging of Market Steers Followed by Showmanship Sponsored by Cameron– Hidalgo–Starr–Willacy County Farm Bureau (Event Center Arena) FRIDAY, MARCH 17 7:00 a.m. — IZBA Jr. Zebu Show (Event Center Arena) 8:00 a.m. — Market Hog Showmanship Sponsored by Cameron–Hidalgo–Starr–Willacy County Farm Bureau (Event Center Hog Arena) 8:00 a.m. — Judging of Zebu Open Show (Event Center Arena) 9:00 a.m. — Judging of ARB Open Show (Event Center Arena) 11:00 a.m. — Judging of Red & Gray Brahman Open Show (Event Center Arena) 4:00 p.m. — Simbrah & Simmental Showmanship (Event Center Arena SATURDAY, MARCH 18 8:15 a.m. — 4-H & FFA Livestock Judging Contest for Champs Scholarship Recipients (Event Center Hog Arena) 9:00 a.m. — 4-H & FFA Livestock Judging Contest Sponsored by Capital Farm Credit (Payne Auto Group Rodeo Arena) 11:00 a.m. — Sale of Champions and Presentation of Scholarship Winners (Event Center Arena)

THURSDAY, MARCH 16 7:30 a.m. — RGV Red Brangus Breeders Showman ship (Event Center Arena) 8:00 a.m. — Judging of Market Hogs: Hampshire, Dark Cross, Other Cross, Champion Drive (Event Center Hog Arena) 8:30 a.m. — Jr. Breeding Cattle Showmanship Finals Sponsored by Cameron–Hidalgo– Starr–Willacy County Farm Bureau (Event Center Arena) 10:30 a.m. — Judging of Red Brangus Open Show (Event Center Arena) NOON — Judging of Simmental Open Show MARCH/APRIL



E. Wood Ave. mondville, TX 78550



H We award $500 scholarships a year to

H Texas Farm Bureau has a mobile

H We donated $7,500 to the Cameron

H We donate to local fire departments. H Your Farm Bureau membership provides a

7 graduating seniors that are Cameron County Farm Bureau members.

County Fair & Livestock Show to build a new barn.

Anyone can become a member Smith Scott Gilbert and take advantage of all these cy Manager Agent services for only

learning barn.

lot of services to youth and community

Aaron WhyGodfrey you should join Agent

your Cameron County $49.00 a month nd discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms, and may vary by situation. ©2015 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Companies. CAM0215 Farm Bureau Farm Bureau promotes today’s farmers and ranchers!

Membership Discounts:


ADT Home Monitoring System Hotel Discounts Grainger Industrial Supply Discounts KD Loaders Amusement Park Tickets Insurance Services Defensive Driving Course Discounts on Polaris, ATV and UTV ging events to everyday miracles, we’re here to General Motors Car and ct the people, places and things that matter most.Truck Rebate $500 Case IH Discounts s and no-hassle service, contact us today.

Ave. TX 78550

Cameron Co. Farm Bureau 13 335 N. Oscar Williams Rd. San Benito, TX 78586 • (956) 399-8183 National voice of agriculture, working through our grassroots organizations to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities.

Meeting your needs as they grow w ww.texa sfar m bu re au . c om Scott Gilbert

Aaron Godfrey


CAREERS IN AGRICULTURE Change brings more returns


“To Change or Not to Change?” This is the common question in farmers arise before changing from conventional to try something new. Especially, now a day when trucks crossing border more than usual and the margin of error is very low I believe every farmer ask this question again and again. Low market price, competition among growers and increasing cost of investments are keeping the returns to minimum and sometimes negative. Perhaps, with my understanding of farmers, I am suggesting a change by keeping the same cost of investment and trying to increase the returns on investment. My main focus is on saving money by changing some conventional practices and make money with change in nutrition. So important questions arise to students, how to start a career in agriculture? What is the future with agriculture background? What are the opportunities after higher education? All these questions will be answered next.

Save money with change in Conventional

The main idea to reduce fertilizer cost with change in conventional practice by increasing its efficiency. First I will start with the fertilizers used and its efficiency and what are the products available in market. When I am talking about the change the main conventional change has to start before planting. Change in preplant type, its rate, time and type of fertilizer. It has been a traditional practice from years to use polyphosphate (larger molecules of phosphate) with same application rate of 30-45 gallons per acre of preplant application, but a question to stop and think? Is it necessary to apply high rates of phosphate before planting? It is not a sustainable practice to apply high phosphate fertilizer because it increases soil salinity and leads to soil pollution. The suggestion is to apply 100% orthophosphate (small molecules of phosphate), with Nitrogen, Potassium, and Zinc just one week before planting. Cut down the application rate from thirty to fifteen gallons. Plant prefers orthophosphate form to uptake which will bring high efficiency in fertilizer use. Avoiding high rates of preplant fertilizer will protect the soil from high salts, and reduce the fertilizer cost. One more trick to reduce the cost is by buying the foliar products in watersoluble, not in liquids. These formulations are generally low salts; greenhouse grade ingredients require little agitation for mixing with suggested rate. It will bring the same effect on the plants with lower cost. The presentation in jugs, bottles or totes includes the presentation cost, hence buying watersoluble will prevent these costs. With these changes you already saved some money and made efficient use of your investment. Another change, this is a tough one but definitely cost effective. Use of watersoluble fertilizer, buy straight watersoluble fertilizers from the market for the whole season and to make your own blend. There are multiple programs online which will lead to what to blend, what type of raw materials (Urea, Mono Ammonium Phosphate, Potassium Sulphate, Potassium Nitrate, Magnesium Sulphate, Zinc Sulphate, Calcium Nitrate, Micronutrients Chelates etc.) to use to make a particular blend. Straight fertilizers cost less than half and sometimes even more when compared to the fertilizer blend. Farmers from third world countries blend their own fertilizer and supply to their crops. This is the main principle to reduce fertilizer cost and produce more. So, to continue farming and be competitive in business start using watersoluble and blend your own fertilizer. Yes, it takes more time and efforts but when it is a question of survival and passion, it is worth.

Make money with change in nutrition

Now the change is with nutrition program and its application rates. For corn, grain, cotton and leafy vegetables, there is no flexibility in choosing the good side-dress product because of cost as main limiting factor, it is critical that we construct our nutrition program with UAN 32 or 28-0-0-5 as main base fertilizer. To help the crop significantly add a balance formulation of P, K, S, Mg, and Ca. Find a watersoluble fertilizer source with these nutrients or mix different liquids nutrients to make a blend. Decrease the application rate from 30 gallons of UAN 32 or 28-0-0-5 to 15 gallons and add 10 gallons of P, K, S, Mg blend to the nutrition program. These five nutrients and their application rate directly impacts the yields. Applying excess of Nitrogen (more than 45units) in single application will not proportionately increase the yields. Nitrogen along with other nutrients will help the crop to respond better, it is important to concentrate on other nutrients (P, K, S, Mg, & Ca). Timely application of foliar micro nutrients will help to avoid

micronutrient deficiencies; this will complete plant life cycle without any stress and yields better. Depending on the crop response, foliar application once every 2 or 3 weeks will be ideal. Vegetable crops with flood irrigation, it is difficult to have more than three applications, provide all the nutrients within these three applications. Follow the preplant fertilizer recommendation with same rate. Two applications after planting apply 15 gallons of UAN 32 or 28-0-0-5 and 10 gallons of N, P, K, S, Mg blend. On the third application, a blend of high Potassium 10 gallons per acre will help the crop for sizing, taste and quality. Continue with foliar application program with watersoluble, once every two weeks. There will be a significance difference in yields, reason plant is now feeding on other nutrients. With vegetable and fruits crops it is a different approach, important to maintain both quantity and quality but still a process of thinking “To Change or Not to Change?”. The size, sugars, shelf life, and other quality parameters can fetch more dollars per box. Going with drip irrigation with these crops, for increasing the efficiency of nutrients will help the farming overall. It is an investment on drip but on the long run drip irrigation will improve your returns. Crops like onion, watermelon, honeydew, pepper, squash, tomatoes require more than three applications and will have enough time to complete the nutritional requirements for the crop and more importantly at the right time. After the establishment, start with a fertilizer which consists of N, P, K, S, Mg and Micros. Application of UAN 32 or 28-0-0-5 only is not sufficient to complete plant lifecycle, this application will impact with low yields and quality. Along with the primary major (N, P, K), secondary major nutrients (S, Mg, Ca) are equally important for these of crops to maximize returns. If the crop was making good yields without applying the other nutrients, it is just because of the nutrients present in the soil but sooner or later these nutrients will deplete from soil and the yields will reduce drastically. Therefore, apply a balance fertilizer formulation consisting of both primary and secondary nutrients for at least 2 applications with the rate of 25-30 gallons per acre. Constantly supply foliar Micros at least once every two weeks. From the middle and till the later stage of the crop, concentrate more on formulation which has high Potassium and Boron for the plants to be turgid, and sugars exchange. Minimum of 2 applications with 20 gallons per acre will take the crop till the end of harvest. Irrigation through Pivot is mix of nutrition techniques from flood and drip irrigation. Apply the N, P, K, S, Mg formulations as suggested in flood irrigation. Multiple irrigation applications help to maneuver nutrition easily. For high value crops in later stages apply high Potassium fertilizer and Micros to complete the nutritional requirements evenly. With these changes you have not increased fertilizer cost but certainly you have increased the chances on returns. A plant feeding on 9 nutrients will yield more with high quality. There are so many options in market, so that you can choose the best with good price to keep same cost of investment to have more return on investment. Let’s keep our farming world open to change to bring more returns. If you have questions about nutritional programs based on your soil, irrigation, crop, and budget feel free to email me MARCH/APRIL



at st.matter most. today.

on Godfrey nt

surance 215 015 Texas Companies. Farm Bureau CAM0215 Insurance Companies. CAM0215

STAR GALA VII was another big success with over 1,200

supporters gathering in the Boggus Ford Events Center in Pharr. A BIG HEARTY THANKS goes out to the City of Pharr, our sponsors, donors, bidders, buyers and VOLUNTEERS that help us every year to raise this money to fund our STAR Premium Auction.

Our guests were entertained for two hours by the award winning Edinburg North High School Mariachi ORO. One of many highlights was listening to Mariachi ORO sing El Rey to our good friend Dr. Joe Townsend. They were then served a delicious rib eye dinner served to them at their table by over 100 Hidalgo County 4-H and FFA students in less than twenty minutes” stated STAR GALA Chair Tonya Hill.

“STAR GALA VII was dedicated to the Hidalgo County Farm Bureau for their many years of support for Hidalgo County 4-H and FFA students plus our STAR GALA and STAR Premium Auction. They are also $10,000 sponsors of STAR Showmanship Shows which are one of the positive educational events that STAR emphasizes and supports. MIL GRACIAS goes out to our $10,000 Gold Sponsors Alice East, AT&T, Charlie Clark Nissan, HEB, Hidalgo County Farm Bureau-Texas Farm Bureau Insurance, Memorial Funeral Home and Texas National Bank.   We also appreciate our $5,000 Silver Sponsors - Chorizo de San Manuel, Linebogger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, Lone Star National Bank and Melhart Music plus our $3,000 Silver Sponsors - Capital Farm Credit, Chapotal Farms, South Texas Health Systems and Wylie Implement” says STAR GALA founder and board member Carlos X. Guerra. “We are also blessed to have over 80 table sponsors, 40 + live auction donors and over 50 silent auction donors plus several good folks that donate money. The STAR GALA recently  hosted our first ever Scholarship Banquet inviting all of our 33 STAR Scholarship Winners plus five family members and or friends. Every STAR Exhibitor that has applied and interviewed has won a scholarship since our first year.   It was a big success and we look forward to doing it again next year. We have awarded $550,500 to 473 STAR Exhibitors in 14 years “ stated long time STAR GALA board member and STAR VP Benny Cano.   Marcus Hill from Forth Worth and immediate past president of Texas 4-H Foundation Board and long time supporter of the STAR GALA through Ag Workers stated “ STAR GALA is a great example of a community coming together to help it’s youth and promote agriculture. You guys are stellar hosts. My wife loved the fresh fruit baskets that were on each table.”  He added a quote from Frederick Douglas “It is cheaper to build strong children than to repair weak adults.”   “Everyone is invited to attend STAR and see our hard working Hidalgo County 4-H and FFA Students show their projects at the STAR Show on March 1-3 with a special invitation to participate at the STAR Premium Auction on Saturday, March 4 at 10 AM. The public can support by bidding on any of the 300 + juniors that will walk through the sale ring. All events will be held at Edinburg’s Doolittle Park,” state Donald & Mary Kelley, STAR Show managers.   For more info on the STAR GALA, please contact Tonya Hill at For more info on the STAR SHOW and Premium Auction, please contact Donald and Mary Kelley at 956-605-1325 or

Our 2017 STAR Queens are:

(L-R) Vanessa Martinez - STAR Duchess, Bianca Garcia - STAR Queen, and Faith Ivey - STAR Princess

“ Hold on to your hats… Here we go again..! ” bY CASEY CLIPSON

It has been a while since we have had the marginal moisture some of the RGV is facing. While some crops are up and looking good, there are a number of acres that are waiting on rains in order to plant. This ground missed the fall rains and some growers out west have had no sizable rain since Last May. Recent showers have help, but moisture is quickly dried out with the high winds that follow. RGV and Coastal Bend Growers seem to have two weather patterns….Too Wet or Too Dry. One thing is for certain, it upon us and we need to be prepared on what is potentially coming. Today I will attempt to answer questions that always come up during these dry like situations. When growers run out of moisture and start wondering if it is going to rain, the questions start flowing. Farmers run through the gambit of concerns and what if’s. Here are some common 48 Ag Mag


questions that come up every time the weather moves in this direction. 1. “ I have planted 80% of my acres, I have run out of moisture and I wrote (EU) Enterprise Units. What can I do to protect the unplanted acres? “ ANS: This is a very tough situation for growers. If you have solid stands on 80% of your crop and wrote an EU, the EU option provides very little protection for the last 20%. One option is for Growers to look at putting the last 20% into a different crop to keep the good acres from offsetting the dry acres. EU in the situation above will more than likely not pay on the 20% of acres lost if planted to the same crop for which 80% of the crop is at a good stand.

2. “ It is dry, what is the minimum seed count I must plant to qualify for insurance?” ANS: This answer is a simple one: Whatever is considered normal planting practice in your area. Don’t be the guy that plants a seed every 3ft, if it is not normal in the area…!

thereof can make the difference and can end up being very costly to the grower. If you have questions about these conditions or any other crop questions don’t hesitate to call or stop bye.

Wishing everyone another Great Year!!!!

3. “If I planted Grain and it was blown out by the wind, can I go back and replant Cotton?” ANS: The short answer is Yes, but before you make a decision like that you must file a claim/ speak to your agent/company to let them know what you’re plans are. Remember insurance attaches the date you plant, and one could be charge premium for destroying a crop without consent from the insurance company. Replant payments can be made in these situations as well if planted back to the same crop, but not if the crop is replanted to a different crop. Most companies and their adjusters understand these situations and will work with the growers (remaining inside policy guidelines) to make sure the grower can do what makes sense. 4. “I planted Cotton I had a marginal stand, I need to replant there is no replant payment for the cotton policy; I need to replant about 50% of the field. Do I need to file and claim before I replant.” ANS: Once again, YES, but like in the previous question, Most companies and their adjusters understand these situations and will work with the growers (remaining inside policy guidelines) to make sure the grower can do what makes sense.

CropGuard Group, Inc 2315 W Expressway 83 Ste 102 San Benito, TX 78586 Office (956) 688-8485 Casey Clipson Mobile (956) 793-1282

Obviously, there are several questions that come up during the thought process of what to do and what not to do. The general rule is this stay in close contact with your agent, ask as many questions as possible, and play devil’s advocate to be thorough. Answers to these questions or lack




Area Farmers Tour Australia’s Riverina bY JOHN MILLER

ver the past couple of years, a number of our customers across Texas had expressed an interest in seeing Australian agriculture firsthand. After arrangement were made, Valley farmers Billie D. Simpson and Marshall Swanberg took interest in the trip right away. After hearing so many tall tales about Australia, who wouldn’t want to explore the land often called Oz. Thanks to having organized a similar trip to Brazil two years ago, that experience enabled us to tap farm tour resources in the land down under. After studying the different regions, it was decided that the states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria provided the right mix of agricultural diversity and tourism opportunities to satisfy the varied goals of a large group. To best understand agriculture in this part of Australia, we concentrated on the farming region known as the Riverina, which is highlighted in red on the map of Southeastern Australia. Riverina identifies the geographical area drained by the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers. Before going, I was careful not to read too much since I wanted to be surprised; and I was amazed!

After a day recovering from a little jet lag in Melbourne, a very pretty and livable city by the way, we headed out for Wagga Wagga which lies about 250 miles to the North, and on to Griffith which is approximately another 60 miles. This formerly pastoral area known more for cattle and sheep was trans-

50 Ag Mag


formed in the early 1900’s by an irrigation project utilizing the Murry and Murrumbidgee rivers and the flat land that lies between them. The design of the irrigation canals, and the area serviced by the water district, is truly amazing. It took no time at all for the European settlers (some against their will) to apply their farming knowledge to create highly diversified irrigated farms throughout the region. Fortunately, we were paired with a gentleman with considerable knowledge of this area which allowed us to visit a number of operations and spend time with the owners. All of the farms we visited were set up in a way that might only be seen in a few areas of the US where irrigation and sunshine abound. While pasture (cattle and sheep) and wheat seemed to be the predominant crops by area, it was common to see operations irrigating some combination of cotton, rice, corn, sorghum, and soybeans. For some, you could toss in almonds, plums grapes, or oranges. There are numerous wineries in the Griffith area that operated large vineyards that sell their wine worldwide. Several of the diversified livestock, cropping and orchard operations also operated a vineyard. Some vineyards were large enough to operate their own wineries and sell branded wines such as Yellowtail.

Traveling across NSW, the just harvested wheat fields seemed to go on forever. And it appeared that the straw was put in large squares on almost every field. Commercial and farm storage bins looked similar in size and design to our own and looked to be used for all grain crops to help with logistics, marketing and in many cases value added projects on the farm. We visited one farm where the anchor crop was organic rice which was dried, cleaned and bagged on the farm under a private brand sold in the large cities. Rice yields were reported to be in the 8,000 to 9,000 pounds per acre range, which is very comparable to what we see along coastal Texas. Yields for other irrigated crops were very comparable to the High Plains of Texas with irrigated corn yields in the 230 to 260 bushel per acre range – except we were looking at row watering systems and not center pivots! You can see one of the fields visited in the travel group photo below. Inquiries about expenses indicated that costs of production on irrigated crops were comparable to what we experience here. Of most interest was the fact that this grain deficit area seemed to support better prices and therefore better margins at this time. The farmers we visited typically grew irrigated grain crops under prearranged price contracts. We were told that irrigated farmland in the region traded at $US 3,500 to $US 4,500 per acre. Being Texans, we had to stop by a state of a start-of-the-art four-stand cotton gin that mills approximately 200,000 bales per year located in the heart of the Riverina. Being told 6 years ago that cotton would not grow well here, determined local farmers raised 9 million dollars to build their own gin and are now a part of a larger group of farmers making 5 to 6 bale irrigated cotton on over 75 thousand acres. The unique watering system gravity flows water through small canals or ditches using gates alongside fields were syphon hoses are used to push water across. The returning water that is captured flows back into the ditch and is channeled to a field opposite the road for reuse. This is a truly remarkable system given the distances involved. It must serve the farms very well since we saw very few circle or lateral pivots in this part of the country. And with California type sunshine, this high yielding cotton produces good quality desirable on the world market. Being summer, the cotton is about midseason and farmers there are expecting to harvest a very strong crop. The gin manager is excited that the one millionth bale will be ginned by the new facility early in the season.

Australia’s Riverina was a fun and interesting place to travel as an agricultural tour. When we visited local farmer’s markets, farm supply stores, equipment dealerships, farms, restaurants, and even a Sunday morning church service, we always attracted a crowd and were swamped with questions about our lives back home. Australians like very much to talk about world events, politics and about anything else for that matter. The farmer serving Marshall lunch in the photo even treated us to a traditional platter that included rice and lamb. Spending times like these with farmers on the edge of the Outback made one appreciate their pioneer spirit and settlement past that in many ways sounded similar to stories I hear from my own family and from customers during my travels across the South Plains. The hospitality expressed by those we visited left us with really great memories of the Riverina, and left me with a desire to explore the area again someday. MARCH/APRIL



They call the thing

Livestock Show bY KATHRYN BRADY

While most people are starting New Year’s Resolutions and getting back to the ‘old grind’ and most children spend their time after school catching up on homework, games and socializing; there is a select group of kids who spend their evenings working hard on final preparations with their animals to show at county, regional, and state livestock shows. Livestock shows never feel quite right when the weather is surprisingly in the 80’s, but there seems to be an even greater sense of anticipation that a brisk Texas winter cold front brings with it as the invigorating breeze floats through the show barn. Stock show season seems to fit nicely with the chilly air, leafless trees and lackluster days. Upon walking into a show barn you are met with the smell of shavings and animals mingled with concession stand hot dogs, queso, popcorn and nachos and you hear children’s voices, blow driers, animals and auctioneers as dust and dirt wafts through the shifting sunlight. It is the feeling of anticipation, hard work and reward for a job well done. Youth involved in livestock shows throughout the state are participants in 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America). And they spend the whole year preparing to show their animals at these exhibitions. That means evenings and weekends dedicated working outside with the animals until they are trained just the right amount. 4-H is notably recognized for its “belief in the power of young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime.” The 4-H’s are represented by a four-leaf clover; head, heart, hands and health. And the young people learn how to implement the

52 Ag Mag


4-H’s in service to the community around them and to continue to use these skills throughout their lives in service to the greater good. You can begin participating in 4-H as young as nine years old or 3rd grade. And many kids begin showing animals or other projects right away in their first year. “FFA is a dynamic youth organization that makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.” To summarize the motto; members “learn to do”, continue to learn, learn to earn accomplishment as well as a living and learn to serve. Participation in FFA begins in high school and can continue into college. FFA and 4-H are not just participation in livestock shows, though; they are about gaining the skills to succeed in life. They teach service, life skills, presentation, respect of oneself, of others, and of community and country. 4-H and FFA teach young people how to work and interact with people of all ages. They teach individual accomplishment and to overcome the odds. And most-remarkably, they teach the everelusive skill of communication. I mean have you ever heard a FFA member recite a speech! Wow! So what does youth participation in livestock shows through 4-H and FFA teach? Why is it so important? The value of 4-H and FFA is to learn how to use let downs to improve for the next time; it’s the idea of overcoming adversity and never giving up on a dream. It is the significance of hard work and

a job well done. These young people wake up early, go to bed late and spend weekends preparing for, maybe, just one show a year and sometimes the end result does not turn out the way one hoped. But looking back the participant discovers the merit of constructive criticism and learning from mistakes. It is exciting and frightening to participate in livestock shows with the more seasoned “big kids,” as you lead an animal, sometimes twice your size, around a ring with limited experience.

tion rarely seen in today’s world. They are adults that desire to give back to the community while inspiring and motivating others. So the next time you’re strolling through the fair grounds of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo or sauntering to the rodeo and concert in San Antonio take time

Livestock shows demonstrate the appreciation of a bond between a child and an animal, the bond between a parent and a child, the bond between fellow youth and competitors alike. It is early mornings and late nights, exhaustion and excitement, delight and defeat, the desire to keep improving and to never give up. It is the accomplishment of goals plus dreams looked forward to.

FFA Mission

4-H Motto “ To make the best better .”

4-H Pledge “ I pledge my head to clearer thinking , My heart to greater loyalty, My hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community and my world .” In the end these dedicated, hardworking youth turn into adults with leadership skills and a desire for high achievement. They are adults that understand the significance of challenges, drudgery, and the feeling of accomplishment in a job well done. They have learned how to be successful both as a team and as an individual and are able to translate that skill into a career. They have a sense of professionalism learned at a young age and have the proficiency of presenta-

“ FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership , personal growth and career success through agricultural education.”

FFA Motto “Learning to do, Doing to learn, Earning to live, Living to serve.”

to notice the livestock barns and the kids that are diligently combing out their animals, talking to their animals or even sleeping next to their animals. Be sure to take note of the ribbons and banners hanging with pride on the gates of the individual animals’ pens. Speak a word of congratulations or encouragement to the youngsters who are doing more and working harder than their contemporaries. Sources:






Kurt Schuster

AgMag Columnist


s in all things, noted in mythology by the philosophers of Persia; this too, shall pass. Whether it’s the business cycle, weather, the stage of life that you’re in time has a way of inexorably changing things. Whether these changes are good or bad, that’s always what remains to be seen. Anybody in the agricultural business field can tell you that the current season has not been a good one. Equipment dealers have had major downturns in the orders and John Deere reached a record of their inventory of used equipment in stock. Farmers are dealing with a dramatic drop in commodity prices thanks to everything from uncooperative weather to foreign exchange issues. As such, the seed, chemical, and thousands of other industries that are involved in farming are suffering as well. Most times of crisis are unique in how they come about, but many times the currents within them are known entities and can be managed if not outright controlled through careful and deliberate work.

You Can’t Handle the Truth Congratulations, you’re in a crisis. Coming to the realization of just how bad things are and how deep you in you are can often be the biggest hurdle to confronting any kind of big challenge you’re facing. Oftentimes people have what psychologists call “confirmation bias” wherein they will look for

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and either find, or find ways to justify, how things actually are still working and will be working onward even when everyone else can see how bad things actually are. Why is the biggest step? Farmers have no ugly children and want to leave no crops in the field, equipment salesmen don’t want to realize their bonuses will shrink, people in general want the best outcome and you can usually hear things like: If this just happens…if this just keeps going…this can be stretched out just a big longer. And if the “just’s” ruled the world we’d all be eating steak and drinking champagne, but that’s not the case. As the adage in poker goes: if you can’t tell who the sucker at the table is, it’s you! If you’ve got that sinking feeling, get someone you trust and who can give you a critical eye to look over your operations. Best bet though is not to involve someone who has a stake in the operations or someone who’s outcome depends on it. Am I saying hide things from your banker? Of course not, but until you actually have a handle on how bad things are there is no reason to rock the boat unduly. Your trusted advisor can give you a bearing on how bad things are that you’re seeing and may even be able to show you a few things you hadn’t even noticed yet. Whether this involves someone taking stock of your working capital, opening your books, or giving your fields a once over with an eye towards the markets only you can know what you need.

Getting Down to Brass TackS The etymology of the title of this part of this article refers to how people would stretch out the usage of their furniture to the point that the brass tacks holding the fabric to the frame would start to show through. It’s a good metaphor for figuring out what to do with your crisis because in almost every case you can think of, stretching your financial resources to their limits is always a move you’re going to have to make. Let’s start with the easy stuff; any unnecessary purchases need to be put on hold, sponsorships and advertising you’ll have to give a polite “no” and maybe next year, capital purchases need to be cut, rent equipment instead of buy, reduce your headcount to the bare minimum, see if you can defer your loan payments for a time period or see if you can refinance them, and what is often overlooked lean on your vendors for better terms and your customers for quicker payment. A lot of these items seem like common sense, but putting them all together in the biggest degree you can is where your true planning can come in. Deferring maintenance and purchases may buy you some time, but remember if you can’t run your business there’s no point anyway. Head count of employees may seem like an easy thing to do, especially if you’re dealing with a heavy overhead, but this is a very delicate process that should be thought out thoroughly. Any employee you dismiss remember that you’ll be paying unemployment for and thanks to the new health insurance law, you must offer them COBRA coverage, which is typically much more expensive than normal coverage. Often too if they’re an employee at a senior level you can be facing severance and/or benefits payouts that will correspond to letting them go. Your mileage may vary in this area of cost cutting, so tread cautiously. The financial aspects of dealing with a crisis are much more straightforward, but also typically harder to chance or influence. If you’re in the farming realm the USDA can help with deferred payment plans and direct loans that help out famers going through rough times. Be prepared for enough paperwork to sink the Bismarck though. Other operators can always try and refinance notes at better rates, or get their payments deferred. Some drawbacks with these tactics though are that any sort of refinancing comes with fees and costs that can exceed the savings you may get in interest payments, but there are several handy calculators our there to help you reach this conclusion. Deferred payment plans are sound in theory since they help you conserve cash, but read the terms carefully as several plans then require you to make all missed payments at once, charge you higher rates, or other onerous terms. A good middle ground here is to see if you can make interest only payments on a note for a certain period to keep the note holder happier and not burn through precious cash.

You Have to Know When to Hold’em, When to Fold’em… I can tell you right of the bat what this section will not be about: quitting. The decision to completely shut down operations is something that not only do I not want to contemplate but it is also something I do not feel qualified to discuss. Getting to that point is something that requires the correct legal and financial advice beyond what this simple article can give. What this section will cover is often what I believe is the nuclear option in a business; when to cut back your operations. In farming there comes a point in which it sometimes makes more sense not to harvest and not to plant when you see how cheap the market is. If you’re going to lose money by harvesting product that is earning little to nothing in the marketplace, then logically why do it? Modern accounting and finance textbooks opine that if you can meet and over your fixed costs then you should continue operations indefinitely while finding ways to cover your variable costs. That inflection point of personal pain is up to many variables beyond such bland decisions rubric as to the quality of life of the business owner, understanding bankers, and seeing if you can ever truly “catch up”. In other areas is the axiom that “assets create expenses”. If you’re in a capital intensive field, the choice on when to ramp down is highly variable and incredibly idiosyncratic, but it’s something that can’t be dismissed. Not contemplating when to slow or cease operations, or how to scale back is foolhardy. Not everyone hits ever time they’re at the plate and being able to give your firm and yourself the flexibility in your business to confront these crises as the come along is a need, not a want. Hard choices will abound, everything from expanding operations to a nice vacation may be postponed. Depending on an understanding banker (or wife, respectively) can help you survive to fight the next round.








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Your business is our priority! Locally grown

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Booster Club 62 Ag Mag


1. 2. 3.

Helping FFA students ALL across the Valley. Started on 9/6/2015. The organization was started by Mark B. The ag teachers wanted to start something. From there Mark took on the responsibility and parents backed him.


The first Raffle was a Boot Raffle that raised over $2,100 with those

funds is what funded the organization to get on its feet.


Officers: - Mark B. President Cleve Ford - V. President Tonja Gatton -

Treasurer Orlie Sanchez - Secretary Joe Leal - Member.

6. 7. 8. 9.

Raised over $21,000 for children.

awarded $1,250.00.

worthy causes for children.

Had $2,400 in ad onds for the kids and projected 3,500 this year. Purchased BBQ Pits and Participate in Raffles. Offer scholarships the first scholarship participant was

10. Contribute to Local Events such as the RGVLS Gala - donated to 11.

Non - Profit organization with 501c - all the funds raised are given

back to the FFA kids.

applicants a sizable scholarship.

chest filled with meat) – Hunters Expo.

12. 32 participating parents all are registered FFA Parents. 13. The goal of this booster club is to give every one of the scholar 14. 3 raffles a year – Spring ( BBQ Pits) – Fall Raffle (6 for more Yeti Ice MARCH/APRIL




Sugar Growers: SHOWING THE WORLD HOW SWEET TEXAS IS By Doug Van Pelt, Texas Department of Agriculture

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At one point after the Great Depression, the very last sugar mill in the Rio Grande Valley closed down. Fast-forward almost 40 years to the mid1960s, when several agricultural leaders in South Texas, along with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Weslaco and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), launched a feasibility study to find out if sugar cane production could be profitable again in South Texas. In 1970, 100 South Texas farmers came together to form the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers (RGVSG), a privately-owned cooperative. Then they built a new multi-million dollar mill and started growing sugar cane again. Today, RGVSG members produce more than 1.5 million tons of sugar cane per year on 40,000 acres in a threecounty area. According to the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers (RGVSG) President and CEO, Sean Brashear, stimulating the local economy is his motivation to buy locally and just one reason he enjoys being part of the GO TEXAN program. “The best part of Texas is that we have a diverse industry,” Brashear said, “Not just the lay of the land, but we have a lot to offer to the world and

we should always keep self-sustainability in mind, too.” RGVSG believes hiring local residents to work for them is a real benefit. According to their website, the national sweetener industry creates $21.1 billion in economic activity. In Texas alone, more than 8,000 jobs rely on a strong domestic sweetener industry. RGVSG typically contributes more than 10 percent of the total gross revenues the Rio Grande Valley generates from agriculture each year. Brashear mentioned RGVSG has had a slow but steady comeback from the drought a few years ago. However, with the recent rainfall and steady price of sugar, things are looking up! “In the future, we hope to bring more varieties, provide more research and testing on various sugar varieties, and expand disease control to increase the farmers’ ability to fight pests and other diseases that threaten crops,” Brashear said. Want to learn more about the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers? Check out their website and be sure to visit their facility from October to March.




Winter wheat acreage hits century low



igh supplies have pushed wheat prices down, forcing farmers across the U.S. to reduce their planted winter wheat acreage again. After four consecutive years of world record wheat production, planted acreage has fallen to the lowest level since 1909 to 32.4 million acres, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.

the marketing year,” Fischbacher said. “So there’s some very good signs when we look at what we’re doing in terms of exports. But that has not changed where our price is at today.” The payments farmers are currently receiving for wheat are low, closer to $3.00 or $3.30, Fischbacher said. The reference point that’s in the farm bill for growers to be closer to profit is around $5.50 per bushel, Fischbacher noted.

Although there has been a trend in fewer planted wheat acres, many within agriculture were surprised the number was so low, considering in 1909 there wasn’t even much land in production. Why the steep drop? It came down to price, according to Steelee Fischbacher, director of Policy and Marketing with the Texas Wheat Producers Board and Association in Amarillo. Farmers aren’t making a lot of money with other commodities. They just aren’t losing as much as they are with wheat.

“Anything above that level we think would be beneficial for our farmers,” Fischbacher said. “Obviously, the higher the better, but if we could get back to the $6 level, we would see those acres come back.”

Texas wheat acreage had already taken a hit and dropped 12 percent last year due to inclement weather during the planting season. Low prices this growing season have caused farmers to pull back an additional 10 percent—adding up to a 22 percent decline over the last two planting seasons. More than 6 million acres of winter wheat are typically planted in Texas, but this year it’s fallen to only 4.5 million, according to Fischbacher. “We were expecting to see our number decline. I think that 4.5 is pretty low for what we were expecting. But that’s a number that we received from USDA,” Fischbacher said. Alton Synatschk, a wheat farmer in Lamb County, has decreased his acreage by a quarter from last year due to low prices. Many factors have driven his decision to decrease his acreage. “Those acres are probably going to be converted to cotton, because there’s a little bit of a rally there,” Synatschk said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Radio Network. “The cotton price is a little stronger. Wheat prices have been this low before, but the alternatives weren’t as great.” Besides converting acreage to cotton, Synatschk is integrating other management changes into his operation, like controlling fertilizer costs and seeding rates. “It’s making things a little difficult, especially on the dryland wheat,” Synatschk said. There’s only so many things you can do to cut inputs. We’re doing all we can.” Fischbacher said other competing commodities, specifically corn, were so low that feed wheat demand did not meet expectations. The industry is trying to increase the demand “to whittle away at some of the surplus that we have on hand.” The wheat industry is working to get the wheat supply back on track through increasing exports to bring in some cash flow, according to Fischbacher. “Our exports for this current marketing year are already surpassing what they did last year, and we’re only about halfway through

The planting season started off well until a dry spell struck the Panhandle and other regions of the state. Recent rainfall, however, has helped the crop recover in some fields. “It [moisture] was relative to start,” Synatschk said. “The beginning of September we had three inches of rain, but then we didn’t have anything after that until just recently.” Synatschk said since the first of the year he has received about an inch and a half of precipitation. His crop is starting to come out of winter dormancy and is about normal for this time of year. “We have had some recent moisture over the past month and so we really think that’s going to be beneficial,” Fischbacher said. “But when you start talking to farmers out there, it varies pretty greatly on what their wheat crop looks like.” Wheat harvest in the South Texas corridor will begin rolling around April and continue through July in the Panhandle. Fischbacher reminds farmers despite the low prices, there are benefits to growing wheat as a rotational crop. Dual purpose wheat also allows farmers to get the most out of their crop. “We can graze our cattle, as well as take that grain and basically have two crops out of one,” Fischbacher said. She also recommends farmers work on management strategies to develop a local market and see what other opportunities are available. “We have seen a lot of our growers look at rotating wheat with canola, because there is a growing market for canola,” Fischbacher said. She doesn’t expect to see a long-term decline in wheat acres at this level. “It’s our hope that long term, our price will balance back out and we will get back to a region where we can start making money with wheat,” Fischbacher said. “It’s going to take a lot of time to get the wheat supply back on track. But once we do that, we really feel like our wheat acres can come back, especially here in Texas.” MARCH/APRIL



Bridging the Disconnect

Schoolkids Learn about Growing Food bY DEBRA ATLAS


rowing up in the Rio Grande Valley used to mean being sur rounded by citrus orchards and farmland. Today, residents are surrounded by strip malls, countless restaurants, pawn shops and automotive repair places, many reminiscent of junk yards.

from. This has inspired a steady rise in school gardening projects across the country, with teachers schooling kids in what ag’s about and where food comes from.

“There’s a big disconnect between food producers and consumers,” said Brad Cowan, Texas A&M AgLife Extension Service’s County Extension Agent – Agriculture, Hidalgo County.

Having spent his childhood as a migrant worker, working the fields, Lamas says “there’s practically not any crop in the Valley I haven’t harvested.”

Today’s urban and semi-rural kids, who’s parents and grandparents grew up on or near farms, are somewhat clueless about where food comes

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One such teacher is Joe Lamas, a biology instructor for the past 26 years at Science Academy of South Texas in Mercedes, Texas.

“There’s always been a garden in the family”, Lamas said. His brother has a big organic garden in La Feria. Five years ago, Lamas (the instructor)

realized he needed a garden space. He didn’t have much land at home. So he got permission from the Academy to create a garden on school grounds. Although the soil was difficult to work with, he planted some tomatoes and peppers. “It’s good exercise,” he said. After he improved the land, the school asked him to get kids involved in his project. So two years ago he did. Now, with the kids help, Lamas’ garden includes rows of tomatoes, cabbage, onions and a few papaya trees planted around the garden perimeter. He plans to add cantaloupe in a few weeks around the cabbage, which will be

done soon. “ None of the kids have been in a field,” Lamas said. “ And they’ve never picked pests either.” The kids don’t want to kill them, he says, but “sometimes you have to draw the line.” Last year they produced 300 cabbages. Lamas didn’t take any home. He wants the kids to do that, to experience them themselves. He tells them “You’ll never experience a tomato until you eat one from the vine!”

The kids are always amazed at how fast the plants grow, he said. When they express an interest in the gardening project, Lamas starts by asking them what they know, what they want to learn – questions like “ what interests you about plants?” He tells them he can show them how to raise a few standard crops and a few others. He’ll tell them what’s practical for this area and what’s not. Then they can try anything they’re interested in. And the kids respond. One time the kids asked about growing jicama. Lamas’ brother told him it grows well here but it needs a long growing season. No problem for the Valley. Lamas says he plays around with different vegetables. He’s grown turnips, something many of the kids had never seen, and carrots, which they all love. He tells his students what they’re going to plant and how soon the seedlings should appear, weather depending. He”ll make the holes, then adds compost and MiracleGro. Then he covers them up and plants the seeds on top. One kid adds compost, another adds

fertilizer, etc.

Lamas tells them: “ there’s not a lot of variety out there (in stores) but there’s a HUGE variety that they themselves can grow as a gardener. But they have to have an interest in it.”


“They get to see how things grow,” he said, and he explains how it works.

Lamas plants more vegetables than he needs. He makes them available to the kids and encourages them to have their own planting block. Talking about the disconnect, Lamas said a few years ago he discovered some of the kids had never seen strawberries. So he raised some and the kids did also.

He’s since introduced them to vegetables like leeks, beets and kohlrabi. “We’re losing so much diversity,” he said.

“If you go back 50 years, there were over 100 varieties of apples,” he said. Now in stores, there are six or seven. And potatoes? You have go to South America (Peru, Bolivia) where you’ll find thirty different varieties and colors. “Even with citrus, we have so much variety but we don’t get to see that,” he said. “Most of the kids (say) the only time they see veggies is when they see them on the side of the road (at vegetable stands),” said Lamas. “And the only time they see broccoli is when they see it in the store.”

Lamas encourages the kids to keep track of what they grow and how it does. He’s done this himself for years. Lamas strives to pass his life-long fascination and passion for plants and growing things along to his students. He plans to harvest some of the tomatoes and onions they’re growing and create a delicious salsa for the kids.


“There’s a world of difference between a tomato you buy at HEB, especially in the winter time,” said Lamas “It’s completely different.”

There’s not a lot of variety out there (in stores) but there’s a HUGE variety that they themselves can grow as a gardener. But they have to have an interest in it. In April, they’ll make a soup with some of the cabbage and tomatoes. It will give them a sense of the full cycle and open up their perspective of where the food they eat really comes from. A freelance journalist and professional blogger, Debra Atlas is reachable through or




South Texas Ranchers Invited Rio Grande to Attend Beef Valley 706 Series


Beef 706

Brooks | Cameron | Hidalgo | Starr | Willacy

outh Texas cattlemen and women are invited to attend an upcoming Beef 706 threepart series beginning March 25, 2017 in Rio Grande City, Texas. Beef 706 is a part of the Beef Quality (BQA) efforts and is designed to educate producers about sound management decisions and the factors impacting the safety and quality of beef.

The first session of the series will be held March 25, 2017 at the R.Y. Livestock Auction Market beginning at12:00 noon with a lunch followed by a discussion lead by industry experts on facThe Rio Grande Valley Beef 706 program is a three-part series of hands-on sessions focusing on beef tors effecting feeder calves. Attendees will then choose a calf monitor thefrom production quality management and marketing opportunities is available fortobeef cattlethrough producers Brooks, system at the following Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr,two andsessions. Willacy counties. This checkoff-funded program is designed to at help maximize andRaymondville, have a better Session two will be held September 28, 2017 Rioproducers Beef Feedyard (15profits TX-186, understanding of the production process after their cattle enter the feedyard. Tx) at 5:00 p.m. Session two will offer an inside look into a feedyard and review the cattle as finished market steers. Session one will be held March 25, 2017 at the R.Y. Livestock Market Auction, Texas (3 Miles North of

US 83 on FM 755 Rio Grande City, Texas 78582) beginning at 12:00 noon with lunch. Here industry experts discuss effecting feeder calves. Producers will thenScience choose aDepartment calf to monitor The final will session willfactors be held October 20-21, 2017 at the Animal onthrough camthe production system at the following two sessions. pus at Texas A&M University Kingsville beginning at 8 a.m. The final session will allow beef

producers to participate in a hands-on exercise that takes their chosen fed cattle through the Session two will be held September 28, 2017 at Rio Beef Feedyard (15 TX-186, Raymondville, TX harvest, fabrication process. 78580) grading beginningand at 5:00pm. During this session producers will get an inside look into a feedyard and review the cattle as finished market steers.

“This series offers producers a unique opportunity to follow cattle from ranch to rail and learn Sessionabout three safety will beand heldquality October 20-21, 2017 at their Texas A&M University Kingsville Animal Science firsthand issues affecting product,” said Jason Bagley, senior Department beginning at 8:00am on October 20, 2017. Lunch and dinner would be provided on October manager of beef resources at Texas Beef Council. “Another appealing aspect of the program is 20th. On day 2 the program will begin at 8:00am and lunch will be provided. This 1.5–day session will participants will have the opportunity to ask exercise questions professors and extension in allow producers to participate in a hands–on thatoftakes their chosen feeder calfspecialists from session meat and beef cattle production. Thisprocess. program encourages interactive dialogue which one science through the harvest, grading and fabrication proves to be a valuable tool.” Registration will close on March 20th and you will register by calling your local County Extension office.. The cost of the program will be $100.00/participant due by March 20, 2017. $75 will be refunded to the The cost of the program participant is refundable participant if they attend isall$100 threeper meetings. The and $100$75 checks are made based payableontofull theparticipaRGV Beef tion. To register to attend, please contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent. South Improvement Association. Beef Quality Assurance Credits will be offered over the course of the program to all counties interested participating participants. include: Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Willacy and Zapata Texas

ToCounty: RSVP and Register for this program, pleaseStarr contact your local County Extension Office. Brooks Cameron County: Hidalgo County: County: Willacy County: Zapata County: Vic Cantu, Dr. Enrique Perez, Brad Cowan or Omar Montemayor, Mathew Rodriguez or Zar Rodriguez, Matthew Enrique Perez Vic Cantu Zar Rodriguez Brad Cowan or Omar Montemayor Rodriguez or Saenz, Rolando Zamora, Cameron County Vidal Brooks County956-361-8236 Zapata956-765-9820 County Vidal Saenz Starr County 361-325-4402 956-487-2306 361-325-4402


Hidalgo County 956-383-1026 956-383-1026


Hosted By

Rolando Zamora 956-765-9820 956-689-2412 Willacy County 956-689-2412


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(956) 330-8870




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Issue 16 of AG MAG  
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