Industry News: December 2023

RiceTec Unveils SQUAD® Seed Treatment Line for 2024 Rice

RiceTec is excited to announce its new SQUAD® seed treatment line with its 2024 rice seed offerings. With SQUAD, growers will have multiple seed treatment options for a customized fit within their production systems.

For 2024, the SQUAD product line will have three seed treatment options: SQUAD Pro, SQUAD Gulf, and SQUAD Delta. All three SQUAD products will include a base package of gibberellic acid, zinc, and a combination of four fungicides.

For growers in the Midsouth looking for a premium seed treatment in the bag, RiceTec will have a limited supply of SQUAD Pro. The SQUAD Pro package offers broad-spectrum, early-season insect and disease protection combined with increased rice water weevil control and suppression of grape colaspis. While this product fits on all drill-seeded acres, it provides extra protection for pests associated with row rice.

For Gulf Coast rice farmers, SQUAD Gulf is customized for growers along the coast who deal primarily with rice water weevils and stem borers throughout the season. The SQUAD Gulf package has approval for use in both water-seeded and drill-seeded production systems.

Finally, SQUAD Delta will be the most widely available package that fits most Midsouth production systems. SQUAD Delta has been a reliable seed treatment package for several years throughout the southern rice belt and has provided consistent early-season insect and disease protection for most drill-seeded rice acres.

“We are excited about our 2024 SQUAD offerings and what we’re looking at for future products,” says Garrison Hardke, RiceTec marketing manager. “Under the SQUAD brand, we are evaluating several new products that will provide our customers with turnkey seed treatment solutions to address a number of issues, including pest control, stand establishment, and crop nutrition.”

Researchers Receive NSF Funding to Continue Building a Smarter Insect Trap

Division of Agriculture professor of entomology Ashley Dowling, right, and Khoa Luu, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering, test out the AI-powered smart insect trap.
Photo courtesy of University Relations, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

University of Arkansas System researchers received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research program to continue developing a smart insect control system.

SolaRid AR, an Arkansas-based ag-tech company, is the primary recipient of the $981,168 grant, with roughly $340,000 of the award going to researchers who are incorporating a camera — powered by artificial intelligence — into SolaRid’s existing insect trap system to identify and count a range of insects.

Ashley Dowling, professor of entomology for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, and Khoa Luu, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering at the University of Arkansas, are leading the development.

The system is designed to simplify monitoring of plant growth stages and pest populations by processing the appropriate data in real time through a central dashboard that can be accessed with a mobile app. The goal of the project is for growers to be able to find out which pests, and in what concentrations, are in their fields during the different stages of plant growth through a season. This information would allow for early and accurate identification of pests, and for timely responses to reduce inputs and crop loss.

Ongoing work focuses on building the database of insects the system needs to recognize and improving the reliability of detection within a species. To assist with this, the team will work with the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health to add EDDMapS, the largest invasive species and pest database in North America. They will also integrate the center’s digital applications to create a robust framework for disseminating information to site managers, municipalities, organizations, and the public.

The goal is to miniaturize and weatherize the system so that it can be easily deployed to run off the solar cells that currently power SolaRid’s insect traps.

This next phase of the work will shift to California crops, where the team will partner with industry experts at the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. The team will train AI algorithms to identify fall armyworms, which eat rice, and navel orangeworms.

Randy J. Sasaki, managing partner of SolaRid AR, noted that both the company and the scientists were extremely proud of the work that led to the latest round of NSF funding. “It is a significant milestone after five years of development,” he said. “It is also an endorsement by authorities that the AI technology has been developed and of the importance of commercializing the technology that is intended to make America more competitive.”

Dowling said, “It’s exciting to know we have the funding to take the next step toward producing a marketable, field-ready unit and that a few years from now our invention could be in fields across the U.S. helping farmers monitor and protect their crops.”

Producing a compact, weather secure and affordable smart trap for use across a range of cropping systems anywhere in the world is the final goal of this project.

— Hardin Young, Assistant Director of Research Communications, University Relations, University of Arkansas

USDA to Provide More Than $3 Billion to Commodity, Specialty Crop Producers Impacted by 2022 Natural Disasters

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide more than $3 billion to commodity and specialty crop producers impacted by natural disaster events in 2022. Eligible impacted producers can apply for financial assistance through the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) 2022. The program will help offset the financial impacts of crop yield and value losses from qualifying disasters occurring in 2022.

“In our continued commitment to improving our delivery of emergency relief assistance, we have further refined our Emergency Relief Program 2022 delivery process. Instead of two separate program phases, we will now run two tracks concurrently, increasing our efficiencies in application and payment processing while ensuring equitable program delivery. We also listened to important input from producers and stakeholders and have enhanced ERP 2022 provisions to ensure shallow loss impacts on revenue are considered.”

Background 

On Dec. 29, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023 (P.L. 117-328) that provides about $3.7 billion in financial assistance for agricultural producers impacted by eligible natural disasters that occurred in calendar year 2022.

ERP 2022 covers losses to crops, trees, bushes, and vines due to qualifying, calendar year 2022 natural disaster events including wildfires, hurricanes, floods, derechos, excessive heat, tornadoes, winter storms, freeze (including a polar vortex), smoke exposure, excessive moisture, qualifying drought, and related conditions.  

ERP 2022 program benefits will be delivered to eligible producers through a two-track process.

It’s important to note that disaster-impacted producers may be eligible for ERP 2022 assistance under one or both tracks. To avoid duplicative benefits, if a producer applies for both tracks, the Track 2 payment calculation will take into account any payments received through Track 1.

ERP 2022 Application Process – Track 1 

ERP 2022 Track 1 leverages existing federal crop insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) data as the basis for calculating payments for eligible crop producers who received indemnities through these risk management programs. 

Although FSA is sending pre-filled ERP 2022 Track 1 application forms to producers who have crop insurance and NAP data already on file with USDA, producers indemnified for losses resulting from 2022 natural disasters do not have to wait to receive the application before requesting ERP 2022 assistance. Effective Oct. 31, 2023, producers can apply for ERP 2022 benefits. Receipt of a pre-filled application is not confirmation that a producer is eligible to receive an ERP 2022 Track 1 payment.

USDA estimates that ERP Track 1 benefits will reach more than 206,000 producers who received indemnities for losses covered by federal crop insurance.

ERP 2022 Application Process – Track 2 

Track 2 is a revenue-based certification program designed to assist producers who suffered an eligible decrease in revenue resulting from 2022 calendar year disaster events when compared with revenue in a benchmark year using revenue information that is readily available from most tax records. In cases where revenue does not reasonably reflect a normal year’s revenue, Track 2 provides an alternative method for establishing revenue. Likewise, Track 2 affords producers of crops that are used within an operation and do not generate revenue from the sale of the crop a method for establishing revenue for the purpose of applying for ERP 2022 benefits. Producers are not required to submit tax records to FSA unless requested by the County Committee if required for an FSA compliance spot check. 

Track 2 targets gaps in emergency relief assistance for eligible producers whose eligible losses were not covered by crop insurance or NAP including revenue losses too small (shallow loss) to be covered by crop insurance.

Producers interested in applying for ERP 2022 Track 2, should contact their local FSA county office. Additional reference resources can be found on FSA’s emergency relief website.

Additional Required Forms 

For both tracks, all producers need certain required forms on file with FSA within 60 days of the ERP 2022 deadline. Producers can apply starting Oct. 31, 2023. The application deadline has not yet been determined and will be announced at a later date. If not already on file, producers can update, complete, and submit required forms to FSA at any time.

Required forms:

• Form AD-2047, Customer Data Worksheet.

• Form CCC-902, Farm Operating Plan for an individual or legal entity.

• Form CCC-901, Member Information for Legal Entities (if applicable).    

• Form FSA-510, Request for an Exception to the $125,000 Payment Limitation for Certain Programs (if applicable).    

• Form CCC-860, Socially Disadvantaged, Limited Resource, Beginning and Veteran Farmer or Rancher Certification, if applicable, for the 2022 program year.    

• A highly erodible land conservation (sometimes referred to as HELC) and wetland conservation certification (Form AD-1026 Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification) for the ERP producer and applicable affiliates.

Those who are uncertain or want to confirm the status of their forms can contact their local FSA county office.

Future Insurance Coverage Requirements

All producers who receive ERP 2022 payments must purchase crop insurance, or NAP coverage where crop insurance is not available, in the next two available crop years as determined by the Secretary. Purchased coverage must be at the 60/100 coverage level or higher for insured crops or at the catastrophic coverage level or higher for NAP crops.

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