NAWG Weekly Update: 4/14/2016  

NAWG Continues Call for Immediate Congressional Action on TPP
On Monday, NAWG and 17 state wheat grower associations joined a wide coalition of agricultural organizations in urging Congress to act quickly on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In a letter to U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, NAWG emphasized to Congress the urgent importance of passing TPP.

“Every day of inaction on TPP means that U.S. wheat farmers are missing out on new economic opportunities, and without enactment, our farmers are at a competitive disadvantage to countries that already have bilateral agreements in place with other countries participating in the TPP,” said NAWG President Gordon Stoner.

FY 2017 Agriculture Spending Bill Advances in House Subcommittee
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee considered and approved its version of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The spending bill would allocate $21.3 billion in discretionary spending, which is $451 million below the FY 2016 enacted level and $281 million below the President’s budget request. It does not include any specific provisions cutting Title 1 farm programs or crop insurance.  However, the bill unfortunately contains cuts to several conservation programs that receive mandatory funding through the Farm Bill. Specifically, the bill would cap the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) at 8 million acres for FY 2017 enrollment (down from 10 million acres), and it would cut funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Watershed Rehabilitation Program.

Beyond conservation, the bill provides $2.85 billion for agricultural research programs, covering both the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) budgets. For the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program, the President had requested a doubling of funding from the $350 million FY 2016 enacted level to $700 million ($375 million in discretionary spending and $325 million in mandatory spending), but the Committee rejected the inclusion of new mandatory spending. The bill bumps up discretionary spending by $25 million to $375 million. Additionally, there is language included in the bill prohibiting the Farm Service Agency (FSA) from closing FSA county offices as well as from permanently relocating county employees if that relocation would result in two or fewer employees, without first notifying and receiving approval from Congress.

Within the budget for the Food and Drug Administration, which is contained in the same Appropriations bill, there is a provision allocating $3 million for consumer outreach activities to promote understanding and acceptance of agricultural biotechnology and biotech-derived food products and animal feed.

The full House Appropriations Committee will markup the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. eastern time.

Senate Ag Committee Advances CFTC Reauthorization Bill
The Senate Agriculture Committee considered and approved legislation on Thursday that would reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The bill, entitled the “Commodity End-User Relief Act,” contains a number of provisions intended to aid agricultural hedgers who use futures and swaps to manage risk. NAWG joined with a broad coalition of agriculture and agribusiness associations in supporting the legislation. During the markup, the Committee considered an amendment from Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (MI) that would’ve instituted a fee-for-service that would’ve exempted farmers and ranchers; however, that amendment was rejected by the Committee on a 9-10 vote.

In his opening statement, Chairman Pat Roberts (KS) remarked, “Overall, the mark before us today addresses this regulatory overreach and provides much needed clarity and relief for our folks on the ground as well as putting in place appropriate customer protections in the wake of the disasters of M.F. Global and Peregrine Financial.”

Legislation to reauthorize the CFTC has already been approved in the House of Representatives. The next step in the process would be consideration by the full Senate.

GE Mosquitos May Be Key to Eliminating Zika
A promising solution to the Zika virus has been developed by the private sector, led by the Oxitec unit of Intrexon Corporation, in the form of a GMO mosquito with a modified gene that will cause its offspring to die before transmitting the disease. The technology, which was first approved in Brazil, is pending approval in the United States. With no vaccine as of yet to fight the Zika virus, which is now present in multiple Central American countries, the pressure to find a solution has led research scientists to utilize genetic engineering, a hot topic in agriculture currently. The use of GE technology in battling public health crises demonstrates the benefit of utilizing safe and proven technologies to combat disease and expand food production to achieve global food security. NAWG supports the pending approval by FDA of the environmental assessment and encourages the release of the GE mosquitos under an investigational new animal drug exemption. In addition, pesticides used to treat for mosquitos are an important tool in fighting the Zika outbreak and NAWG supports continued availability and access to a variety of pesticides for crop protection and residential use.

NAWG Officers Participate in Monarch Collaborative and Crop Insurance Meetings
NAWG President Gordon Stoner was in Washington, D.C. this week to meet with representatives of crop insurance companies and to discuss the importance of defending the federal crop insurance program from Congressional efforts to cut funding. Crop insurance is one of the vital topics moving towards the development of the next Farm Bill and NAWG is dedicated to preserving crop insurance for the benefit of wheat farmers across the country. Additionally, NAWG Secretary Ben Scholz traveled to Minneapolis, MN for the steering committee meeting for the Monarch Collaborative. The Monarch Collaborative works to preserve the habitats and migration routes of the monarch and collaborates with the farming community and agriculture organizations to support a sustainable monarch population, while increasing crop productivity and reducing environmental impacts. Find out more about the Monarch Collaborative here.

Final Deadline for National Wheat Yield Contest in Two Weeks
The FINAL deadline for the National Wheat Yield Contest (NWYC) is May 1. For the first time in twenty years, the National Wheat Foundation is hosting the NYWC to promote the quality of U.S. wheat and demonstrate U.S. wheat growers’ ability to utilize technology to grow excellent wheat. The contest aims to encourage innovation in the agriculture industry, promote the transfer of ideas, technology, and knowledge between growers, and drive development of new and beneficial technologies. In order to enter you must be a member of a recognized state wheat grower organization, or of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) if entering from a state where no recognized wheat grower organization exists.

Successful WheatPAC Auction at Commodity Classic
NAWG’s WheatPAC auction at Commodity Classic in New Orleans in March was highly successful, with funds raised through tickets sales and the auction items, which included such prizes as 75 hours of tractor use given by Case IH and a duck hunting trip given by Monsanto. The event, highly attended by state wheat grower organization members and industry stakeholders, featured dinner and a silent and live auction. The funds raised at the event will be used to contribute to the campaigns of candidates for federal office who prioritize advancing the wheat industry.