NAWG Weekly Update 5/19/16

World Health Organization Says Certain Crop Protection Tools Unlikely to Cause Cancer
This week the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concluded that Glyphosate, Diazinon and Malathion are unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through diet. These determinations by the joint international panel on pesticide residue refute the conclusions from the International Agency for Research and Cancer that determined the three chemicals were probable human carcinogens. The use of these products has been debated in the press, and diazinon, malathion and chlorpyrifos are currently undergoing registration review at EPA. The European Union is scheduled to vote on the continued use of glyphosate this summer. Glyphosate is one of many important tools used by wheat growers. It has been determined through independent grower surveys that approximately 30% of wheat acres in the U.S. receive an application of glyphosate to help manage weeds. These applications occur before planting, at planting or after planting but before wheat emergence in no-till or reduced tillage cropping systems. Glyphosate was first registered for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1974 and registration was completed in 1993. Regulatory bodies and scientific institutions have conducted science-based evaluations and concluded that typical glyphosate usage does not pose an unreasonable health risk to humans, when used according to label directions. For more than 20 years, the EPA has determined, through risk assessments and science-based evaluations, glyphosate is non-carcinogenic to humans. Glyphosate-based herbicides have had a long history of safe use.

Senate Appropriations Committee Advances FY 2017 Ag Appropriations
On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the Senate version of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The bill includes $21.25 billion in discretionary spending, including $2.54 billion for ag research through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food Agriculture (AFRI). Additionally, similar to the House version, the Senate bill increases funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program by $25 million up to $375 million. NAWG applauds these increases, particularly since the legislation includes an additional $2 million for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. This increase reflects the same level in the House Committee-passed version as well.

The bill also includes an amendment from Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) that would require USDA to establish a pilot program for the 2016 crop year that would enable state Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices to make supplemental Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program payments in instances where there are significant yield calculation differences in comparable counties. Where such instances arise, within the pilot program, the applicable state FSA office would have an ability to recalculate ARC-County yields for relevant counties based on several specific requirements.

The bill would also provide $1.5 million for USDA to place Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) employees in the new Cuban embassy. During the markup, the Committee considered a number of amendments, including one that would require the labeling of genetically engineered salmon as well as one to ban horse slaughter. Following Committee passage, the legislation would now be slated for floor action sometime in the coming weeks. Video and documents, including a bill summary, from the markup can be found at this link.

Senate Agriculture Committee Reviews State of Farm Economy, Farm Credit System
The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing Thursday to review the state of the farm economy and to examine the role of the Farm Credit System in financing agricultural operations. The Committee heard from all three board members of the Farm Credit Administration, which is an independent agency charged with regulating the Farm Credit System. A second panel included testimony from witnesses representing traditional financial institutions, the Farm Credit System, and a producer.

During the hearing, participants discussed the current economic conditions facing rural America, including the declining commodity prices and the ripple effect that has had throughout agriculture and rural communities.  They also discussed the dynamics of the current economic conditions as compared to the farm economy of the 1980s.  Video from the hearing and testimony from the witnesses can be found at this link.

ITC Releases Report on Economic Impact of TPP
On Wednesday, the International Trade Commission (ITC) released its highly anticipated report on the economic impacts expected to accrue from the adoption of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). For the entire agriculture and food sector, the report forecasts a $7.2 billion increase in exports or a growth of about 2.6 percent by 2032 compared to the same timeframe without TPP.

The report recognized that the U.S. wheat industry would see substantial gains in market access and subsequent exports to Vietnam where the United States currently competes at a tariff disadvantage to Australian suppliers. Specifically, the ITC notes that U.S. wheat and other grain exports to Vietnam would increase by a healthy 25.3 percent by 2032 under TPP. However, ITC also concludes that U.S. wheat exports to Japan would decline by 17 percent under TPP. There are two distinct markets for wheat in Japan: one for high quality food grade wheat and one for lower quality, lower priced livestock feed wheat. Japan has consistently imported about 60 percent of its annual milling wheat needs from the United States, with Canada and Australia making up the balance. Because access to Japan’s milling wheat market would remain equal among the three suppliers under TPP and because Japan requires different types of wheat for distinct uses, we see no reason why U.S. sales would decline.

“The assumptions made in the ITC report are disappointing and misleading,” said NAWG President Gordon Stoner.  “U.S. wheat farmers stand to benefit from a lower MAFF markup and new market access in Japan and from being able to compete on a level playing field in Vietnam.  Congress should act quickly to enable farmers to take full advantage of the potential economic opportunities at stake under TPP.”

The full joint statement from NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates can be found here.

NAS Releases Report on GE Crops Effect on Human Health and Environment
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources has released a long-awaited report regarding their extensive study on the benefits, possible consequences, and prospects of genetically engineered crops. The report, which was released before a widely-broadcast event, states that while long-term effects of genetically engineered crops are difficult to analyze, there is no substantial evidence of a difference in risks to human health or environment between currently commercialized genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops. Specifically, the report considered insight, comments, and research from nearly 1,000 sources to develop its conclusion regarding GE crops’ role in contributing to future crop improvement and enhanced resistance to diseases, herbicides, and insecticides. The report analyzed insect populations in areas where GE crops were widely used, as well as weed resistance of GE crops engineered to be resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate. Their findings revealed that insect populations generally decreased in areas with GE crops, while weed resistance to herbicides was slow. The report also dives into the regulatory process and recommends that GE and non-GE crops be reviewed and determined if regulations are needed on traits. The study suggests that regulation should apply to the novel characteristics of the plant variety rather than the process. As APHIS continues to review Part 340 and a potential update to the regulatory process, NAWG has conditionally supported the “analyze first, regulate second” approach that APHIS offered as a potential option, noting that a phase-in approach needs to build upon existing systems and not start from scratch. NAWG is generally in agreement with the NAS report and emphasizes that GE crops are a sound science whose application to crop development is crucial for the sustainability of global crops.

Seed Treatment Lawsuit Moves Forward             
Earlier this year, NAWG joined a coalition of agriculture groups, agricultural retailers and Crop Life America in requesting to intervene in a lawsuit brought against the EPA by environmental activists and others. The lawsuit is Anderson v. EPA, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Jan. 6, 2016. The plaintiffs want the court to order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate seeds treated with pesticides as if the seeds were the pesticides. In an Order dated May 13, the court rejected EPA’s motion to dismiss the case, but also issued an Order that granted the Motion to Intervene. NAWG will be working with the agriculture coalition on next steps for the lawsuit to defend EPA’s current regulation of neonicotinoid and other seed treatment pesticides and to ensure that the court and EPA understand the vital importance of treated seeds to American agriculture.