NAWG Weekly Update: 5/12/2016

NAWG Farmer Leaders Hit the Hill, Meet with Farm Groups
This week, the officers of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) were in Washington, D.C., to participate in a number of organizational and policy meetings. To begin the week, the officers met with NAWG staff to review the organization’s resolutions and discuss strategy for advancing its policy goals for the year.

Now two years into the 2014 Farm Bill, NAWG has been actively seeking input about implementation and discussing issues that have arisen with others in the ag community, USDA officials, and Members of Congress. Farmers have been experiencing issues related to the use of NASS data in determining farm program payments under both the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). NAWG continues to work with our partners to try to find solutions that can be done administratively without opening the Farm Bill and in a way that will be more responsive to the experience of farmers participating in those programs. Additionally, the leaders discussed the importance of defending crop insurance and farm programs from cuts during the appropriations process.

The officers also discussed a number of trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada’s grain grading system, the impact of China’s domestic agricultural support system on our farmers, and Cuba. The status of legislation to establish a national framework for the labeling of foods containing genetically modified (GMO) ingredients was also discussed. While the House has passed legislation to create a national voluntary system, the Senate hasn’t yet come to consensus on its own legislation.

NAWG Submits Comments to EPA on Mitigation Decision for Paraquat
NAWG submitted comments to the EPA in reference to the EPA’s proposed interim mitigation decision to further regulate the application and handling of paraquat dicholoride, a crop protection product used by wheat growers. The new regulations proposed by the EPA would restrict the use of paraquat to only certified applicators, removing the ability of growers to supervise employees or other family members. This would result in additional producers and employers requiring certification, which would be cost-prohibitive to several producers and add additional financial burdens, without providing substantial safety benefits. NAWG believes that the current requirements for certification for restricted-use pesticides, and warnings on the product label adequately address the safe use of the herbicide.

DOJ Drops Appeal of Ruling on Lesser Prairie Chicken Designation under ESA
The Department of Justice has dropped the appeal of the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to abide by its own regulations in designating the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The District Court decision centered on the determination that FWS failed to take into account state conservation plans to protect the lesser prairie chicken. Efforts made by the Obama administration to protect the lesser prairie chicken under the ESA would have put undue burdens on farmers and ranchers who would have to abide by costly regulations in efforts to preserve the lesser prairie chicken. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says that “with a little rain, we will see the lesser prairie chicken population bounce back.” The dropping of this appeal is good news for farmers, but the FWS states that they will continue to work with states, federal agencies, and partners to conserve the lesser prairie chicken. Senator Jim Inhofe hopes that the FWS will abstain from reopening the issue until states have had a chance to develop their own conservation plans and demonstrate their success.

Survey Shows Strong Public Perception of Farmers
A recent poll commissioned by National Crop Insurance Services found that a significant majority of Americans have favorable views of farmers and are supportive of federal support for agricultural programs. The survey, which was conducted in early April and was based on telephone responses from 1,000 registered voters, showed that of all registered voters, 86 percent had a favorable view of farmers. This positive perception reinforces the importance of grassroots engagement in public policy, and thus the importance of farmers contacting their Members of Congress about legislation that would negatively impact agriculture. The survey also provides helpful support to efforts to defend the federal crop insurance program. Specifically, the survey shows that 79% of all respondents support a system that discounts the price of crop insurance for farmers. As the Senate Appropriations Committee is set to consider its version of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill next week, it’s particularly important now for farmers to continue weighing in with their Senators about the importance of opposing any amendments to the appropriations bill that would undermine crop insurance, title 1 farm programs, or conservation programs.