NAWG Weekly Update 4/21/16

FY 2017 Appropriations Work Underway
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee considered and approved its versions of the FY 2017 Agriculture and Energy & Water Appropriations bills. For the Agriculture spending bill, the legislation would provide $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. In addition to other details that were included in last week’s e-newsletter, the bill report specifies that several NAWG and National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC) priorities were included. Specifically, the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative would receive an additional $2 million in funding over the FY 2016 enacted level and the Small Grains Genomic Initiative would receive an increase of $1 million. As funding for these programs has been flat in recent years, these increases are significant and show the importance of farmer and researcher engagement with Congressional leaders. Additionally, full funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program was left intact.

During the markup on Tuesday, the Committee considered a number of amendments, though none was targeted at Title 1 farm programs or crop insurance. However, there was an amendment considered to strip the provision providing $3 million in funding to educate consumers about biotechnology; that amendment did not succeed. The next step for the bill would be consideration by the full House of Representatives. The Senate Appropriations Committee is also expected to take up its own version soon.

Energy & Water Appropriations bills for fiscal year 2017 are also moving forward in both the House and the Senate. On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would restrict funding for the implementation of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulation by the Army Corps of Engineers and prohibits permits for the discharge of dredge or fill material from normal farming activities and construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved bill does not contain similar provisions, but a related WOTUS amendments offered today during Senate debate on the appropriations bill was not approved.

House Members Write to EPA Demanding Explanation of What’s Up Campaign
The EPA admitted that the billboards which appeared in Washington state a few weeks ago, blaming farmers for pollution to waterways, should never have been funded, but House members are now inquiring as to why the EPA funded the whatsupstream.com website, violating federal laws regarding lobbying and advocacy funds. Following the revelation that the EPA has committed similar violations with its advocacy campaigns supporting the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation, inquiries are being made as to why a campaign that urges constituents to contact their legislators was being funded by EPA, which is federally prohibited from using federal funds for advocacy purposes. The website for the whatsupstream.com campaign features a button directing visitors to send a pre-formed letter to legislators, asking them to support more regulation of agriculture land and waterways. Participation in such lobbying efforts is in conflict with the EPA’s prohibition from funding publicity or propaganda for advocacy. Senators Inhofe and Roberts recently also sent a letter to the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) requesting an official audit and investigation into the campaign, and the House Committee on Agriculture is conducting an oversight investigation of EPA grant management. Several House members, led by Representative Newhouse, have now signed on to another official letter, condemning the EPA’s actions in engaging in funding advocacy efforts which go against the entities the EPA seeks to regulate.

Wheat Growers Sign on to EPA Letter Regarding Chlorpyrifos
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and other agriculture organizations have signed on to a letter to Administrator Gina McCarthy of the EPA, asking for a postponing of a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting which would convene in order to change the regulatory endpoint for the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The pesticide chlorpyrifos is a widely-used and widely-tested chemical which has been proven to be safe and effective for commodities, specialty crops, and public health uses. If the EPA succeeds in changing the regulatory endpoint of the chemical, it will bypass the current regulatory process and fail to adhere to current policies, while only relying on a single epidemiological study, for which the Agency does not possess the underlying data. This change would cost farmers necessary crop protection tools, and negatively impact producers’ ability to protect crops and maintain their competitive position in domestic and foreign markets. NAWG and the other organizations requested that the EPA postpone the meeting until further attention can be given to the validity of the change, both for matters of federal transparency, and to respect the established regulatory process which has been in place for decades. EPA denied the request and held the meeting this week.

NAWG Comments on APHIS Notice of Intent Regarding Biotech Definition    
Following APHIS’s publication of their Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for proposed rule changes governing the introduction of products of biotechnology, NAWG has formally registered its comments on the NOI. The NOI outlines APHIS’s intent to re-define the term “biotechnology”, which includes expanding it to include new breeding techniques. NAWG does not support APHIS in the definition change. NAWG also provided comments on four rule change options listed by APHIS in the NOI. Of the four options, NAWG outlined its support for a phase-in approach of Option 2, “analyze first, regulate second”, whereby the agency would conduct a risk analysis before determining whether the product should be regulated. NAWG supports Option 2 because it will potentially streamline the process for a product toward a commercial path. The other options included 1) no change 2) wide-scale increased regulatory oversight and 3) withdrawing the current rule, 7CFR part 340, altogether. NAWG believes these three options would hurt producers, cause unnecessary costs, and burden researchers and technology providers. NAWG encourages engagement with stakeholders prior to the release of the rule by USDA APHIS.

NAWG Still Accepting Applications for CEO Position – Deadline May 2
NAWG is still conducting its national search for a candidate to replace Jim Palmer, who is stepping down at the end of May, in the chief executive officer position at NAWG. The deadline for applying is May 2, at which time the Search Committee will select candidates to participate in two rounds of interviews taking place in Washington, D.C. and Denver, CO. The ideal candidate will be someone with substantial experience in agriculture and farm policy analysis who will provide leadership to the organization to ensure the optimum achievement of NAWG’s objectives. Information on how to apply, and the materials required, can be found here.

NAWG Board Member from Ohio Passed Away
Shawn Ehlerding, of Port William, OH, passed away on Saturday, April 16, 2016. A grain grower and cattle showman, Shawn was an enthusiastic and passionate member of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers, serving on their board and on the current NAWG board. He is survived by his wife and two children, as well as many other family members and friends. NAWG offers our condolences to Shawn’s family. His presence and leadership will be missed.

Wheat Quality Council Executive VP Retiring after 25 Years
Ben Handcock, Executive Vice President of the Wheat Quality Council, is retiring after 25 years with the Council. The Wheat Quality Council is now seeking someone to fill Handcock’s place in the Executive VP position, and is accepting applications until May 31. The candidate must have a passion for wheat with proven industry leadership. Further information regarding the job and how to apply can be found here.

NWF National Wheat Yield Contest Registration Deadline is May 1
The deadline for entering the winter wheat sector of the National Wheat Yield Contest is Sunday, May 1. Go to either www.wheatfoundation.org or www.wheatworld.org to register.