NAWG Weekly Update: December 15, 2016

Wheat Grower Organizations Welcome New Trade Enforcement Actions Challenging China Policies

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) welcome two trade dispute actions by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) challenging Chinese government policies that distort the wheat market and harm wheat growers throughout the rest of the world by not fairly administering its annual tariff rate quotas (TRQ) for corn, rice and 9.64 million metric tons (MMT) of imported wheat. The WTO does not require that TRQs fill every year, but it has established rules regarding transparency and administration that are intended to facilitate the use of TRQs.

NAWG and USW also applaud the USTR’s request for a dispute panel in its WTO challenge to China’s trade-distorting market price support programs for wheat, corn and rice. This is a crucial step toward reining in a policy that costs U.S. wheat farmers between $650 and $700 million annually in lost income by pre-empting export opportunities and suppressing global prices, according to a 2016 Iowa State University study sponsored by USW.

“The facts in these two cases go hand-in-hand, demonstrating how Chinese government policies create an unfair advantage for domestic wheat production,” said Gordon Stoner, president of NAWG and a wheat farmer from Outlook, Montana. “Both actions call attention to the fact that when all countries follow the rules, a pro-trade agenda and trade agreements work for U.S. wheat farmers and their customers.”

NAWG and USW are encouraged to see the U.S. government take such a strong position on trade enforcement, which is crucial for building confidence in existing and new trade agreements.
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Government Remains Open under Continuing Resolution

Despite objections from some in the Senate over the bill’s contents, the chamber acted last Friday night to pass a Continuing Resolution to continue funding the federal government at largely FY 2016 levels through April 28, 2017.  Unfortunately, action on a CR means that the funding increases for important wheat research programs that were included in the Senate and House versions of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill are not yet enacted.  However, the CR does contain a provision that would allocate resources to the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) direct and guarantee operating and ownership loan programs, which have been in abnormally high demand following an extended period of low prices for wheat farmers.  As the 115th Congress comes into session in January and as the transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration proceeds, NAWG will continue efforts to increase funding for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative and the Small Grains Genomic Initiative, as well as other programs that have a direct impact on wheat growers.

Congress Acts to Reauthorize Waterways Infrastructure Projects, SPCC Exemptions, Drought Relief

Late last week Congress finalized legislation to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), officially called the Winter Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.  The House approved the legislation on a 360-61 vote followed by Senate action with a 78-21 vote.  As of this writing, President Obama had not yet signed the legislation into law.  The bill included several critical provisions that will have an impact on wheat farmers across the country.  In particular, the bill ensure that the authorized funding through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will continue and authorizes a number of infrastructure projects to improve our ports and waterways.

Beyond waterways projects, the bill also includes a provision exempting from Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) requirements containers on separate parcels that have an individual capacity of not greater than 1,000 gallons and an aggregate capacity of not greater than 2,500 gallons.  Containers holding animal feed ingredients approved for use in livestock feed are also exempt.

The legislation also includes drought provisions to expedite water storage and delivery as well as alternative water supply programs in the West.  The provision also provides regulatory flexibility to capture more water in existing reservoirs during wet months in California.

Field to Market Releases Third Edition of National Indicators Report; Indicators for Wheat Positive

Earlier this month, Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture released the report “Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators for Measuring Outcomes of On-Farm Agricultural Production in the United States”, commonly referred to as the National Indicators Report.  This report analyses national sustainability trends over time for ten commodities, including wheat. The commodity specific environmental indicators include land use, soil conservation, irrigation water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Wheat production in the study period of 1980-2015 improved in land use (acres per bushel), soil conservation, irrigation water use efficiency and energy use per bushel.  Greenhouse gas emissions remained consistent over the study period.  These results reflect improvements in crop yield and adoption of conservation practices. The report also includes national level trends in biodiversity, soil carbon and water quality.  Socioecononmic indicators of farm financial health, farm profitability, worker safety, labor productivity and the generation of economic value are also assessed in the report.  Read more…

Happy Holidays from the NAWG Staff!

The NAWG staff would like to wish you all happy holidays as 2016 winds down!  This will be our last e-newsletter for the year, and we look forward to interacting with you all again in a few weeks!