A state facility that has served the agriculture industry for more than four decades will close its doors Sept. 1. At the same time, an online resource available to farmers and ranchers across the state will also be discontinued.
Texas Department of Agriculture's (TDA) seed testing lab, located at 241 East McNeil Street in Stephenville, is one of two seed labs that has been cut from the state budget, according to TDA spokesman Bryan Black.
"The lab provides seed testing services to the seed industry and also tests official seed samples collected by TDA inspectors to determine compliance with seed laws and regulations," Black said.
The closure follows the passage of House Bill 1, which requires TDA to fully recover the cost of its regulatory function through the collection of fees.
"In order to recover the costs of the seed testing program, it was determined that a 500-percent increase in service testing fees for seed samples would be needed," Black said, adding that a poll by the Texas Seed Trade Association indicated the increase would be too high.
Instead, the trade association said its members would seek services at private testing labs, according to Black.
"Consequently, TDA is discontinuing this service and closing the seed laboratories in Lubbock and Stephenville on September 1," Black said, adding that the Stephenville closure means the loss of employment for "four dedicated employees."
Stephenville resident Luther Butler remembers a time when the lab was bustling. Butler said he came to Stephenville when it was established to provide seed testing to the peanut industry in the late 1960s. He said services were at some point expanded to include testing cotton, sorghum and other seeds.
"At one time, I supervised 14 employees," Butler said, recalling that the lab was spared after being slated for closure at least once before. "When the peanut industry was using the facility, there was a need for quick testing, but the facility is not as critical now."
In addition to private testing labs, Black said TDA's seed laboratory in Giddings will test official seed samples drawn by the department's inspectors.
The lab closures are not the only cuts being made by the TDA.
Also effective Sept. 1, daily market reports on state cattle and grain sales will also be discontinued. Currently, daily reports detail weekly cattle auctions, regional futures markets and more to allow farmers and ranchers to determine expected earnings, Black said.
Twenty of 22 cattle auctions will no longer be available, but Amarillo and San Angelo will remain online.
Due to funding, TDA has reduced its entire market news service, Black said, while reports posted online and broadcast through a hotline are being eliminated. He also said the United States Department of Agriculture will continue to post reports on other livestock and farm products.
For more information on TDA, visit www.agr.state.tx.us.