NAWG Weekly Update: 6/30/16

Vice President Schemm Named to ADC Advisory Board
The Agriculture Data Coalition (ADC) has announced the formation of a farmer advisory board, in keeping to its guiding principle that farmers should be in control of the data collected on their operations. NAWG Vice President David Schemm from Kansas is one of 10 farmers on the board, which will act as an advisory body to assist the ADC in developing a pilot data management system to store agricultural information. The ADC states that its mission is to help farmers utilize the data that they collect every day, by creating a neutral warehouse where data can be stored and controlled before being uniformly and efficiently transmitted to third parties. For his reason for joining, Schemm states that “the ADC will give us the confidence to move forward because it is farmer-centric and understands our concerns, but also understands the value that our data has and how we can better utilize it.” See the other members of the board here: http://agdatacoalition.org/adc-forms-farmer-advisory-board

Senate Releases Long Anticipated GMO Labeling Bill
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow have released a long-awaited GMO labeling agreement. NAWG applauds the bipartisan efforts to secure a national standard that preempts a state-by-state patchwork, thereby avoiding a conflict of regulatory laws between states. NAWG supports their proposed bill, which allows for a variety of labeling options which do not vilify biotechnology, such as QR codes, and directions to websites and phone numbers. In the bill is also included a more narrowly specified definition of biotechnology, that excludes new breeding techniques that are critical to wheat research and other areas of agriculture, and differ from biotechnology.

“GMOs have been scientifically proven to be safe for human consumption and there is no nutritional difference,” says NAWG President Gordon Stoner. “It is vital that a patchwork of state laws not jeopardize access to safe, sustainably produced food; this national standard will assure food security for generations to come.”

On Wednesday evening, the Senate voted 68 to 29 on a procedural motion to substitute in the Roberts-Stabenow bill for the previous GMO labeling proposal from Chairman Roberts. Following this, the Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote next Wednesday (July 6), followed by a full bill vote later in the week requiring 60 votes to passage.

USDA Issues Final Double Cropping Rule, Comment Period Open
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed several rulemakings affecting the federal crop insurance program. On June 22, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation published a final rule amending provisions related to double-cropping and the regulations for when a crop is considered to be “practical to replant.” The changes would be applicable to the 2017 and succeeding crop years for crops with a contract change date of June 22, 2016 or later and for the 2018 and succeeding crop years for crops with a contract change date prior to June 22, 2016.

There are some areas of the country where the growing season lasts long enough to enable farmers the opportunity to harvest a winter wheat crop and then plant a soybean crop on the same land. However, weather conditions can affect the number of acres planted to double-crop soybeans and cause variations from year to year. As a result, it is difficult to establish base acres. Additionally, the previous rules didn’t account for operations that add on acres in a given year. As such, the rule change would allow operations to base double cropping acres on either the greatest number of acres double cropped in two of the last four years or the percentage of acres historically double cropped in two of the last four crop years. The example given is that if a producer has a 100 acre farm and they’ve historically double-cropped 50 acres of wheat followed by soybeans, and that farm adds an additional 200 acres, the number of acres eligible for double cropping would be 150 acres (50 percent of a total 300 acres).  Though this is a final rule, USDA has initiated a comment period that will be open until August 22, 2016.  Instructions for submitting comments are included in the federal register notice.

Food Security Report Indicates Overall Global Food Security Improvement
A Global Food Security report released earlier in June indicated that food security continues to improve, particularly in countries with higher incomes and less income spent on food. The report, which was hosted by DuPont and the Alliance to End Hunger, is the 5th release of the index and examined affordability, availability, quality, and safety as indicators of food security. 113 countries were scored, and 89 of those saw their food security improved. Middle-income and emerging-market countries saw the most growth, due to having reached the economic and development threshold necessary to enable them to focus on improving government programs to enhance food security. Global growth economically has contributed to structural improvements that allow more accessibility to affordable, nutritious foods, including expanded safety-net programs, food transport infrastructure, and greater dietary diversity. Low-income countries, having not yet reached the threshold for improved food security, often lack the basic infrastructure to support systems which allow greater access to food. Political risk, corruption, and lower incomes, as well as the risk of climate change, limit developing countries’ ability to improve their food security. With changing climate and weather patterns as a major factor in pushing up food prices and increasing production volatility, the World Bank estimates that without any action, extreme weather events could lead to crop yield losses as high as 5% by 2030. Although the report overall indicated improved global food security, developing countries still require further support to reach a sustainable level of food security on par with middle-income and developed countries.