Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Darren Turley and Brad Johnson were elected to leadership positions on the Office of the State Chemist Advisory Committee at the fall meeting held recently at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen, was elected vice chairman for 2012-2013. Johnson,who is with Northeast Texas Farmers Coop, replaces the former chair Jimmy Roppolo, United Agriculture Cooperative Inc.
The advisory committee is made up of members from a variety of private agricultural companies, as well as representatives from Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Corn Producers, Texas Sorghum Producers and Texas Cattle Feeders Association.
“A primary topic of discussion at the meeting was the impact of aflatoxin – a toxic carcinogen produced by a fungus that grows on corn and sorghum – on both Texas grain producers and milling operators,” said Dr. Tim Herrman, director and state chemist.
Ben Jones, Office of the State Chemist associate director, reported more than 450 corn and sorghum samples had been analyzed for aflatoxin this year.
“Aflatoxin has been more manageable this year compared to last year,” Jones said. “More counties that were surveyed had less than 20 parts per billion, and there were fewer counties above 300 parts per billion compared to last year, primarily due to the historic drought that impacted Texas in 2011.”
The distribution of corn more than 20 parts per billion is regulated by the Office of the State Chemist, he noted.
In a related presentation, the advisory committee heard an update on the One Sample Strategy for Aflatoxin Risk Management in Texas, a voluntary program developed at the request of the committee as a long-term solution to help the Texas grain industry address the problem of non-standardized methods and variable aflatoxin results.
Employees at participating grain elevators are trained and approved as Office of the State Chemist designees performing standardized sample and testing procedures defined by U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the State Chemist. Testing accuracy is maintained through monitoring and program oversight by Office the State Chemist field investigators. Now in its second year, the One Sample Strategy has received USDA-Risk Management Agency’s extended approval for 2012 and succeeding crop years.
Gary Friddle, Northeast Texas Farmers Cooperative plant/transportation manager in Sulphur Springs, told committee members in a presentation that the One Sample Strategy “came in handy” this past year and helped improve the mill’s testing techniques, training and assured proficiency in grinding and testing.
“We’ve increased the level of risk management as well,” Friddle told committee members. “Overall, the One Sample program lends confidence in qualifying and choosing the origins of supply and allows us to stay on the cutting edge of innovation.”
Ben Weinheimer, Texas Cattle Feeders Association in Amarillo, shared an update on cow-calf feeder numbers and stated that, “the calf crop is down 150,000 and slaughter is down 1 million head.” He also noted that 18 percent of feeders are dairy Holsteins.
The impact of the Midwest drought on corn availability, demand and aflatoxin level was also discussed among committee members.
“This year, Texas is likely the best source for corn below 20 parts per billion aflatoxin, the level considered safe for humans, pet food and dairy feed,” Herrman said.
Dr. Craig Nessler, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, provided an update on current and upcoming agency initiatives. Nessler said the agency, along with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – both part of the Texas A&M University System, will pursue potential funding for a multi-faceted water project.
“Water is the biggest issue facing Texas right now,” Nessler said.
AgriLife Research has the second largest budget in the Texas A&M System in grant funding and ranks first in patents, royalties and inventions, according to Nessler.
“This just shows you our research is not sitting on the shelf,” he said. “We are very proud of the hard work by our scientists.”
Herrman said, likewise the Office of the State Chemist is “very proud of its advisory committee members and the contributions they make to improve the state of Texas agriculture.”
Texas feed and fertilizer manufacturers, distributors and consumers “are acutely aware of factors such as weather, the economy and regulatory issues that influence agricultural market conditions,” Herrman said.
“To succeed in such a dynamic business environment, agricultural leaders rely upon information and updates from trusted sources,” he said. “With a mission to protect consumers and facilitate commerce, one of the most reliable sources is the Office of the Texas State Chemist, part of AgriLife Research.
“As the regulatory authority responsible for administration and enforcement of Texas feed and fertilizer rules, OTSC tracks and analyzes feed and fertilizer data, communicates with stakeholders via annual reports, memorandum and quarterly newsletters, and regularly hosts meetings for advisory committee members who represent feed and fertilizer manufacturers, distributors and consumers.”