NAWG Weekly Update: April 20, 2017

Busy Congressional Schedule Next Week
Congress is wrapping up a two-week recess and will be back in session next week with a busy schedule on tap.  The Senate is expected to kick it off on Monday with a confirmation vote on Governor Sonny Perdue to be the Secretary of Agriculture.  This long-awaited vote is welcome news to wheat farmers across the country who have been waiting months for a top leader to be installed at the Department.  NAWG urges all Senators to vote yes on his nomination.

Congress also must act this week on an FY 2017 funding bill before the end of the week in order to avoid a government shutdown.  The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution which lasts through April 28, 2017.  Possible options could be passage of another short-term CR in order to allow for more time for negotiations on a longer-term spending bill, passage of a CR that lasts through the remainder of FY 2017, or passage of a new omnibus appropriations bill.

As of this writing, no proposal had yet been publicly announced for the path forward on appropriations.  NAWG strongly urges Congress to act on an appropriations bill prior to April 28 in order to avoid a government shutdown. Particularly given the state of the agriculture economy, a government shutdown would have terrible effects on producers throughout the country.  The shuttering of USDA service centers would delay producers’ ability to access FSA credit programs, their ability to enroll in FSA’s title 1 programs, and delay sign-up for and delivery of USDA conservation programs.  Producers rely on their USDA offices for a number of different services, and a government shutdown would have a ripple effect throughout rural America.

Aside from FY 2017 appropriations, efforts are also underway for drafting FY 2018 appropriations bills.  As part of the appropriations process, President Trump has previously released a budget proposal that is focused on discretionary spending.  In that proposal is included a 21 percent reduction to USDA’s discretionary budget.  President Trump is also expected to release in the coming weeks a more detailed budget proposal that could include changes to mandatory program spending.

NAWG Board Officer Attends Canadian Global Crops Symposium
From April 10-12, 2017, NAWG Board Treasurer Ben Scholz attended the Canadian Global Crops Symposium in Calgary, AB, Canada. The Canadian Global Crops Symposium gathers representatives from Canada’s largest agribusiness corporations. Scholz noted that the program covered several topics of importance to the wheat industry including agri-finance, trade/policy, rail, communicating in today’s non-Ag world, and consolidation of the major suppliers. Specifically Scholz discussed how suppliers are recognizing the importance of educating the public on how our food is grown and where it comes from. He also stated that Canadians are willing to consider updates to NAFTA and are concerned about the value of the Canadian dollar and its impact on exports. Canadian farmers share similar concerns with U.S. famers over the concept of a carbon tax. Lastly, Scholz concluded by noting that changes to the Canadian rail infrastructure are coming soon.

Senator to Introduce Resolution to Fix Canadian Wheat Grading
After the spring break when Senate returns to Session, Senator John Tester (D-Montana) plans on introducing a Resolution urging Canada to change its wheat grading procedure to be equivalent and fair to U.S. and Montana’s farmers. Tester’s Senate Resolution also urges the Trump Administration to examine whether Canada’s wheat grading laws adhere to existing trade agreements. Tester has raised specific concerns regarding unfair Canadian trade practices with the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, and he urged the former U.S. Trade Representative to take action on this issue last year. The U.S. and Canada traded $575 billion in goods in 2015, including the export of $280 billion in U.S. made products. Tester’s Senate Resolution text is available HERE.  NAWG has supported efforts in Canada to revise the country’s grain grading system to ensure that U.S. wheat moving across the border is graded fairly.

Countdown to 2017 Census of Agriculture!
America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them. Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017). For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture and to see how census data are used, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call (800) 727-9540.