NAWG Weekly Update August 18, 2016

Reminder: Respond to NAWG and NASS Surveys
As was announced last week, NAWG is undertaking a survey process of wheat farmers to get feedback about Farm Bill programs and to lay the groundwork for developing Wheat’s priorities for the next Farm Bill.  The response has been outstanding so far, and we encourage you to share the link with your fellow wheat farmers.  It can be accessed here or by going to NAWG’s website.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is also in the process of gathering responses from its County Agricultural Production Survey.  Farm program payments through ARC and PLC are based on production data gathered through this confidential survey, and so it’s critically important that farmers who’ve received it in the mail respond to it.  As was noted in NAWG’s e-newsletter last week, the results of these surveys will be available in aggregate form only, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified.

NAWG CEO Goule Travels to States for Annual Meetings
These past two weeks, NAWG CEO Chandler Goule has been traveling to several NAWG member states to meet with state association staff and growers and communicate NAWG’s policy priorities and efforts in Washington. In the first week of the month, Goule was in North Carolina, where he attended a large field day in the Blacklands of North Carolina, meeting with growers, NGO leaders, and input providers. While attending a North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association (NCSGGA) meeting, Goule discussed NAWG’s goals in moving towards a functional Farm Bill and ensuring wheat growers would be prioritized in the planning of the Bill.

Following North Carolina, Goule moved on to Nebraska and Oklahoma, attending several certified seed meetings in Nebraska, with attendance ranging from 80 to 130 growers at each. While in Nebraska, Goule spoke with several University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) Extension faculty members, including Jeff Noel, Director of Husk Genetics; Dr. Stephen Baenziger, wheat breeder, Wheat Growers Presidential Chair, and Professor of Agronomy at UNL; Jeff Bradshaw, Associate Professor of Entomology at Panhandle Research and Extension Center at UNL; and Steve Knox, President of the Nebraska Crop Improvement Association.

Finally, Goule attended Oklahoma Wheat Growers and Commission meetings in El Reno, Oklahoma, where he presented to nearly 120 growers regarding implementation of the current Farm Bill and the strategic plan for the next Bill. He also met with the President of the American Farmers and Ranchers and Oklahoma Farmers Union, Terry Detrick, who is also a former NAWG president. After a full two weeks of touring, meeting growers, and presenting, Goule would like to thank Dan Weathington and Phil McLain of NC, Caroline Brauer of NE, and Mike Shulte of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, for their help in coordinating these travels and meetings, as well as all the wheat growers with whom he met and spoke.

Senator Moran Asks USDA and USAID to Prioritize Wheat in Food Aid Programs
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) has written a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Gayle Smith, urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and USAID to prioritize wheat in U.S. food aid in order to reduce global insecurity and to address the historic wheat harvest in the U.S. Although these high yields have depressed prices, they represent an opportunity to increase shipments of wheat through food aid programs, continuing the U.S.’s position as a leader in the fight against global hunger. The U.S. contributes nearly half of all in-kind donations to food insecure countries. Senator Moran’s letter urges the Obama administration to consider the role of wheat as the most consumed commodity worldwide and encourages them to increase wheat in their food aid programs.

USDA To Hold Series of Fall Forums to Discuss High Priority Issues             
On Wednesday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the department would be providing $17.8 million in funding for 37 projects through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.  As part of the discussing this investment, he also announced that USDA would hold a series of forums over the next few months to get feedback from stakeholders about high priority issues and to prepare for the transition to the next presidential Administration.  While specific details haven’t yet been released, the announcement indicates that the forums will focus on different topics including land tenure and the next generation of agriculture, climate change, export markets, local and regional food systems, and agricultural research.  These sessions will be held in partnership with universities across the country.  As NAWG learns more information about these sessions, those details will be shared in the weekly e-newsletter.

United Soybean Board Discontinues Funding for Double Crop Initiative, Affecting Wheat Industry
This week, the United Soybean Board (USB) communicated its decision to discontinue funding the Double Crop Initiative for its second year, 2017. Slated for three years, the project was only in the first year of its implementation. These research projects were aimed to establish best management practices to improve the productivity of this winter-wheat-followed-by-soybean cropping system. This decision will affect those wheat farmers and states in the wheat industry, as well as private companies that were involved in the project. This initiative was implemented to develop strategies including research, education, communication and activities to increase yield and profitability of double crop soybeans without sacrificing wheat yield. The NAWG member states affected by this decision are Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The USB has indicated their decision was influenced by a change of strategic direction and budget constraints caused by lower soybean commodity prices.

CIMMYT Develops New High-Value Traits for Climate-Resistant Grains Varieties
As food security is a constant concern for American farmers and agriculturalists, DNA tools and informatics are ever evolving in the realm of genetic modification.  According to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), these tools are used to make new advancements in selecting high-valued traits for climate-resilient varieties to ensure the future of food security. Thousands of years ago, genetic modification occurred naturally as the native grasses reached new lands by travel and trade. Conservation efforts later were implemented to protect the native wheat and maize genetic diversity which now contributes to the genetic variation stored in the CIMMYT genebank.

CIMMYT and partners have screened over 100,000 heat tolerant and disease resistant plant samples which are used in developing bridging germplasm. These plant samples provide the diversity needed to develop wheat and maize varieties resistant to natural stresses such as heat tolerance as well as disease resistance. The reluctance to use these native plants, however, results from the less-desirable, wild, traits that are difficult, time-intensive and costly to disconnect from the more desirable traits. The good news is breeders in seven countries, including the United States, are already testing these collections to isolate the desirable traits and make them available for implementation by commercial breeders.

As science and technologies continually progress to the benefit of agriculture and wheat growers, the National Association of Wheat Growers proudly appreciates the advancements made by CIMMYT.

11th Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Bid for Challenges to the W.O.T.U.S. Rule
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in denial of states’ bid to have their challenges to the Waters of the U.S. rule heard by district courts. The states were pushing for district hearing because they thought they would find an audience more willing to listen to their concerns. However, a panel ruled this week that an appeal be put on hold while the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals continues with its own cases that challenge the EPA rule. The 6th Circuit put the rule on hold nationwide in October, but states and industry groups were asking the 11th circuit to hear their appeals. However the 11th circuit panel ruled that it would be a waste of resources for both courts to undertake the same issues simultaneously.