NAWG Weekly Update 6/16/16

NAWG Comments on Pesticide Registration Process

NAWG provided comments in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on their efforts to review pesticides and develop assessments related to endangered and threatened species. The letter stated that NAWG is concerned about the process for reviewing pesticides, the data used to create the biological evaluations, and the fact that EPA only provides 60 days for comment on over 12,000 pages of documents, which NAWG believes does not allow sufficient time for review. NAWG believes that the registration review interim process for the organophosphates has not accomplished any meaningful policy or improvements to effectively screen chemical risk, as well as being overly complicated. The complicated process as well as the potential for increased costs, unpredictable decisions, and impractical use direction could all lead to fewer new crop protection products and technologies. NAWG is concerned that chlorpyrifos, which is an important pest management tool wheat growers use to address insect outbreaks, will not be accurately evaluated, leaving wheat growers with supply uncertainties and cost increases.

Philippines Media Team Met with U.S. Wheat Associates and NAWG

On Thursday, a media team from the Philippines met with policy and trade staff from U.S. Wheat Associates and NAWG, to give an overview of the U.S. wheat industry and its challenges and accomplishments in addressing supply and demand, productivity, quality, trade barriers, GMO labeling, and more. NAWG staff gave an overview of its role in the wheat industry and updated the representatives on NAWG’s efforts to urge Congress to move on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has been stalled due to political disagreements. Additionally, U.S. Wheat staff reviewed the current market environment for wheat, particularly regarding free trade agreements with Asia-Pacific countries involved in plans for TPP. U.S. Wheat staff covered wheat’s trade relationships with the Philippines, while the Philippine media reps shared the general attitude towards wheat quality, biotech products, and trade in the Philippine wheat industry. NAWG continues to maintain relationships with wheat-trading countries and believes that with continued engagement, Congress will move to act on TPP soon.

 Senate Committee Adopts Amendments to Expand Trade, Travel with Cuba

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee considered and approved on a 30-0 vote its version of the FY 2017 Financial Services Appropriations bill.  During consideration of the bill, the Committee approved amendments that would build upon actions taken by the Obama Administration to expand agricultural trade with Cuba.  One of the biggest barriers to trade is an inability of U.S. financial institutions to finance sales of agricultural products to customers in Cuba.  The Committee approved an amendment that would lift this restriction.  Additionally, an amendment was adopted that would lift current travel restrictions to Cuba.  Earlier this week, NAWG was a part of a collective effort of the U.S. Ag Coalition for Cuba in sending a letter to members of the Appropriations Committee urging them to oppose any efforts that would undermine trade with Cuba and to support lifting financing restrictions, among other priorities.

Congress Pressures Department of Labor on H-2A Applications

Last week, Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA) led a bipartisan letter of 102 Members of Congress to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez discussing the need to address problems with the administration of the H-2A agricultural guest worker program.  There has been widespread reports across the country about serious delays in the processing of applications and visa petitions.  This has resulted in significant delays in the arrival of workers to farms that have significant labor needs.  The Congressional letter includes several recommendations and urges the agencies to expeditiously process H-2A applications before farmers’ dates of need for labor.

Conservation Districts Conducting Conservation Planning Survey

In an effort to improve conservation planning services for farmers and ranchers, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) is conducting a brief online survey of farmers and ranchers. The purpose of this survey is to obtain feedback on ways to strengthen the delivery of conservation planning assistance to landowners. This survey asks respondents to identify aspects of the planning process they value, those aspects in which the partnership is doing a good job, and as important, those aspects that need improvement. This survey takes about 8 to 12 minutes to complete. Responses will be CONFIDENTIAL and all background information will be used for statistical purposes only. The survey will be open through Friday, July 1 and can be accessed at the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NCPPsurvey2

House Appropriations Committee Releases FY17 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill

The House Appropriations Committee approved their FY17 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill on Wednesday. The bill includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, and other related agencies. The bill provides in total $32 billion, which is $64 million below the FY16 enacted level and $1 billion below the President’s request. Included in this appropriations is funding for the EPA, which totaled at $7.98 billion, which is $164 million below FY16 enacted level and $291 million below the President’s request. In response to what legislators feel is EPA’s anti-growth agenda which includes harmful and costly regulations, which also burden farmers, the bill will prohibit the EPA from making changes to the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act; NAWG supports inclusion of this provision and has opposed any changes to the definition of “navigable waters.” Under funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the bill also continued a delay on any further Endangered Species Act (ESA) status reviews, determinations, and rulemakings for greater sage-grouse, the endangered status of which NAWG opposes. The Senate Appropriations Committee also today approved legislation with similar riders.