NAWG Weekly Update: April 10, 2014
National Wheat Improvement Committee Research Fly-In Held in D.C.
The 2014 National Wheat Improvement Committee held their annual research fly-in this week in Washington, D.C. Wheat farmers and researchers visited Members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials to discuss the importance of federally funded research through the Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and land grant universities. Federally funded agricultural research is vital to maintain and enhance the agricultural economy and job creation . More about wheat research needs and the wheat research community can be found at www.wheatworld.org/research.
NAWG Holds Webinar for Growers
NAWG, along with the Montana Grain Growers Association (MGGA), organized a webinar for the 22 NAWG affiliated states on Tuesday to provide growers with information on new farm bill programs, particularly in Title I and Title XI. Lola Raska, MGGA’s executive director, lead the discussion and talked the group through a slideshow presentation explaining the new elements of the farm bill based on NAWG’s discussions with USDA and Congress. NAWG encourages growers to come forth with their questions about the new farm bill programs throughout the implementation process. To listen to the full webinar and download a copy of the presentation visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/farmbill/.
NAWG Welcomes Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which would establish a voluntary federal labeling standard for foods and beverages made with genetically modified ingredients, also known as GMOs, was introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.). The bill, which is also sponsored by G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require safety reviews of all GMO traits, as well as mandatory labels on such foods if they are found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without GM ingredients. In addition, the bill would eliminate the confusion and uncertainty of a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling laws by affirming the FDA as the nation’s authority for the use and labeling of genetically modified food ingredients. “NAWG is pleased with the introduction of this bill,” said NAWG president, Paul Penner, a wheat farmer from Hillsboro, Kan. “It will provide a federal solution on GMO labeling and will bolster consumer confidence in the safety of American food by affirming the FDA’s sole authority in food safety and labeling decisions.”
For more information contact Kayla Bullerman, NAWG communications and marketing coordinator at 202-547-7800 or visit www.CFSAF.org.
CFTC Reauthorization Marked up in House; Confirmations in Senate
The House Agriculture Committee marked up a draft bill that would reauthorize funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) this week. Many of the key issues were discussed before the markup by Committee leadership. The Senate has yet to move on their version of the reauthorization bill, but Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has stated that she does plan to bring forward a bill with hopes of a final passage this year.
Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee moved forward with all three of President Obama’s CFTC nominees this week, although one nominee, Sharon Bowen, has seen her confirmation slowed in the full Senate. Sen. David Vitter (R-Lou.) has stated that he intends to put a hold on Bowen due to her handling of Ponzi scheme during her tenure at the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. The hold is likely to only slow the nomination process, as the Senate Democrats only need a simple majority to confirm Presidential nominees.
EPA Administrator questioned about Clean Water Act Regulation
While testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies on the President’s FY2015 budget proposal, Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy faced questions regarding the newly proposed Clean Water Act (CWA) regulation. Senators Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) asked the Administrator specifically about the agricultural impacts of the new regulation that will come under the authority of the EPA. McCarthy acknowledged the distrust between EPA and much of the agriculture industry, and expressed the need to clarify the proposal. McCarthy committed to working with agricultural interests and USDA to ensure that the agriculture industry’s concerns are heard. McCarthy also indicated that it will take the EPA time to finalize the regulation, while shying away from setting a specific timeline on the matter. Several senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee also expressed their concern about the proposed rule and expansion of federal jurisdiction under the CWA in a letter to the President. NAWG is currently reviewing the proposal and will be submitting comments on behalf of wheat growers.
USDA Announces Sign-up Date for Disaster Programs
USDA announced on Monday that the sign-up for disaster assistance programs will begin on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Quick implementation of the disaster assistance programs has been a top priority for USDA since the programs expired in September of last year. The programs that will be available for sign up on April 15th include the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program and the Tree Assistance Program. You can read USDA’s full press release on this announcement by visiting http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/newsReleases?area=newsroom&subject=landing&topic=ner&newstype=newsrel&type=detail&item=nr_20140407_rel_0054.html.
Grower Advisory Council Meets in D.C.
NAWG President Paul Penner and staff attended the Monsanto Grower Advisory Council Meeting last week in Washington, D.C. Participants of the two-day meeting took part in a robust agenda including an economic update, discussions on agricultural data, the climate and GMO labeling. “Open dialogue at meetings like this allows us to collaborate with other grower leaders and develop strategies for improved practices to implement on our farms,” commented Penner. The Council was established to give grower lead organizations the opportunity to provide strategic advice and guidance to Monsanto on current issues, as well as educate growers on how to best capture increased value from their crops.