NAWG Weekly Update: May 26, 2016

Goule Selected as New NAWG CEO
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) announced this week the selection of Chandler Goule as its new Chief Executive Officer. Goule, currently Senior Vice President of Programs at the National Farmers Union (NFU), comes to NAWG with eleven years of agriculture policy experience on the House side of Capitol Hill and will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer beginning July 5. NAWG has been conducting a nation-wide search for a new Chief Executive Officer to fill the vacancy left by Jim Palmer, who announced in April his intention to step down to spend more time with family and on his Missouri farm.

“NAWG is very pleased to have Chandler on board,” said NAWG President Gordon Stoner, a wheat grower from Outlook, Montana. “With our industry at a critical juncture, we know that with Chandler’s guidance, NAWG will be in a great position to advocate on behalf of all wheat farmers. We are delighted to have such a talented and experienced person lead our D.C. staff.”

In addition to his NAWG CEO responsibilities, Goule will also serve as the executive director of the National Wheat Foundation (NWF).

“Wheat has many challenges ahead, and we know Chandler is up to meeting them all head-on,” said NWF Chairman Phil McLain, a North Carolina wheat grower.

Stoner believes that with the experience Goule gained in his legislative work in Congressional offices, as well as his leadership experience on the House Ag Committee and at the NFU, and his work on three previous Farm Bills, Goule will provide beneficial policy and legislative guidance to NAWG as it develops priorities for the next farm bill.

NAWG President Hits the Hill to Talk TPP
NAWG President Gordon Stoner was in Washington, D.C., this week to wish outgoing NAWG CEO Jim Palmer well as he steps down from his post at the end of the month. While in DC, Stoner also participated in a meeting of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) with Cuba’s Ambassador to the United States, José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez. He also hit the Hill to talk with Senate offices that supported Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) about the importance of quick ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As part of the discussions, he also raised NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associate’s concerns about last week’s International Trade Commission (ITC) report that showed questionable assumptions about the outcome for wheat under TPP. Stoner discussed Japan’s historical preferences for U.S.-grown wheat and the fact that NAWG’s competitive position with respect to Canada would not change under TPP.

Research Provides Guidance for National Wheat Action Plan Development
U.S. Wheat Grower and Wheat Industry Stakeholder research recently completed by Aimpoint for the National Wheat Foundation’s (NWF) National Wheat Action Plan (NWAP) Project will provide strong guidance in the development of the final plan. The purpose of the research was to provide both NWF and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) grower leadership and the NWAP Executive Partner Council with insight into the market and producer dynamics impacting the future of U.S. wheat production, and help channel that insight into actionable strategies. The research objectives were, among other things, to identify current producer and stakeholder perceptions of the U.S. wheat industry, gauge producer support of wheat as a preferred crop and current production practices, assess global and national trends in wheat production profitability, and provide insight to develop unifying principles and potential courses of action. Key takeaways of the research indicated America’s wheat growers want the U.S. to be a leader in wheat production, developing new markets are as essential as new technology, and risk management tools and trade pacts are top federal priorities. Universal stakeholder beliefs include the importance of the U.S. being a global leader in wheat, developing new uses for wheat would be a catalyst for growth, and sustainability should be approached with transparency and openness. Next steps in the NWAP process will be to determine key assumptions from the research, develop hypothetical “what if” scenarios, and work collaboratively to develop the final plan.

NAWG Supports Letter to Secretary Vilsack on APHIS 340
NAWG has supported the signing of a letter by 65 members of Congress to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Notice of Intent (NOI) to revise pre-market biotechnology regulations. The NOI was published in the Federal Register in February. The letter states that although the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supported in their commitment to scientific discovery and risk-based regulation for biotech, APHIS must be cautious in developing any revision of the current biotechnology regulatory structure. APHIS has proposed to exempt classes of biotech products that the agency knows do not present a risk to agriculture, which will benefit agriculture, but these proposals have also created uncertainty and ambiguity as to which breeding processes and products will receive pre-market regulatory scrutiny, and to what degree. The signers of the letter worry that the ambiguity present in these proposals will inhibit the development and commercialization of innovative technologies which will be valuable to crop producers, and that APHIS will group whole classes of plant breeding methods into a pre-market regulatory structure. The signers state that without scientific and risk-based justification, safe methods which have been utilized for decades could be jeopardized by APHIS’s proposals, hindering innovation and preventing the breakthroughs in biotechnology that are crucial to sustainable global food security.

Senate Holds Hearing on International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on May 19th to hear from witnesses regarding the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. NAWG supports the ratification of this treaty, and is following the process within the Senate. In regard to the Plant Genetic treaty, the committee heard testimonies from Judith Garber, Acting Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Oceans and International and Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and John Schoenecker, Director of Intellectual Property at HM. Clause, on behalf of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). The Treaty, which was adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in 2001, and signed by the U.S. in 2002, would, Garber and Schoenecker argue, create a stable legal framework for international germplasm exchanges, allowing for facilitation of access by public and private entities for the sharing of plant resources. The Treaty aims to increase development in sustainable use of plant genetic resources by ensuring free and open access to germplasm centers internationally. Currently, the US is already complicit in most of the requirements of the treaty, which would not require any new implementation of laws or appropriations. However, ratification of the Treaty is necessary to enable the U.S. to participate in the framework. Greater development with plant germplasms will address crop insecurities from disease, pests, and climate, as well as improve crop yields and the continuing development of new crop varieties. With food security as a high priority globally, the development of more resilient crop varieties with higher yields is crucial.

House Passes H.R. 897, Zika Vector Control Act
In a vote which passed 258-166, the House approved Ohio Republican Bob Gibb’s bill H.R. 897, which would eliminate the requirement for a Clean Water Act permit for certain pesticide applications. The permit required under the Clean Water Act is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which was established in response to a 2009 US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. Pesticides are regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which considers water quality safeguards when reviewing and approving labels for crop protection tools. NAWG supports proper use of crop protection tools in accordance with their FIFRA approved labels. H.R. 897 would remove the duplicative regulation that the NPDES permit has caused, which has been estimated to cost $50 million and require 1 million hours per year to implement, without adding any environmental protection. NAWG is in support of this bill, as an effort to reduce unnecessary and redundant burdens on farmers that cost time and resources.

Purdue University/CME Group Launch Ag Economy Barometer
Purdue’s Center for Commercial Agriculture and the CME Group (Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board of Trade and others) have partnered to produce a monthly Ag Economy Barometer to measure the health of the U.S. agricultural economy. Each month, the Ag Economy Barometer will provide a “state of U.S. ag health” with an index value. Results to calculate the index will be obtained through a survey of 400 large agricultural producers on economic sentiment. Purdue will also provide its research and ag economics expertise to measure producers’ expectations of key farm economy drivers, such as farm profitability, farmland prices, capital expenditures, and crop and livestock prices.

Quarterly, the index will be accompanied by a webinar and an in-depth thought-leader survey. The index is unique in that it is calculated based on producer sentiments about both current conditions and future expectations. According to Purdue, the agricultural sentiment of U.S. producers increased to an index of 106, which was an improvement in producer sentiment from the base period index established from October 2015 through March 2016. For more information on the Barometer, click on the video link below:

Video explainer: Introducing the Ag Economy Barometer