NAWG Weekly Update: December 3, 2015

Crop Insurance Fix Included in Highway Bill Conference Agreement, Action Needed
This week, Congressional negotiators finalized a conference agreement to reauthorize highway construction projects, officially calling it the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The $305 billion conference agreement authorizes highway/transportation programs for five years, authorizing and funding projects related to the construction and repair of roads and bridges as well as transit and passenger rail. Additionally, the conference would allow for an exemption from the hazardous materials endorsement requirement for an employee of a custom harvester operation with a Class A CDL if the vehicle is transporting diesel in a quantity of 1,000 gallon or less and if it is clearly marked as flammable or combustible.

Additionally, the bill includes language nullifying the $3 billion cut to the crop insurance delivery system that was included in the budget agreement last month. This critical provision, Section 32205, reverses a cut that would have the effect of making the delivery of the crop insurance program more expensive, lead to consolidation and fewer options in the industry, and drive up premiums for producers. The House of Representatives approved the conference report this afternoon on a 359-65 vote, and the Senate is expected to vote on the deal as early as tonight.

There is a strong possibility that there will be a point of order raised in the Senate tonight against the inclusion of the crop insurance provision, which could mean there will be a vote to waive the point of order.  We urge NAWG members to contact your Senators as soon as possible and urge them to support crop insurance, support waiving any point of order against the crop insurance provision, and to ultimately support the highway bill.

NAWG Urges House to Support STB Reauthorization Bill
This week, NAWG joined a broad coalition in a joint letter urging the U.S. House of Representatives to support S. 808, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Act of 2015. The bill, which was introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and passed the Senate by unanimous consent on June 18, is the first STB reauthorization bill since 1995. Specifically, the legislation includes transparency requirements for the operation of the Board, would increase the Board from three to five members, and it would enable the Board to initiate investigations on its own without having to wait for a formal complaint. A copy of the coalition’s letter is available here.

CRP General Sign-up Begins
On December 1, USDA began General sign-up 49 for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP, celebrating 30 years of enrolling environmentally sensitive lands into the program, was reduced in total acres by the 2014 Farm Bill. Over the life of the Farm Bill, CRP will decline from 32 million acres to 24 million acres enrolled each year. The reduced acreage cap is likely to lead to move competitive applications. To find out more about the general sign-up from December 1 to February 26, or ongoing continuous sign-up options, contact your local FSA office.

Deadline Nears for Minore Memorial Scholarship Applications
The December 11 deadline is just around the corner for students to apply for the Minore Memorial Scholarship. Students with connections to the wheat industry who are planning careers in agriculture can apply for one of four scholarships for the 2016-2017 academic year. Click here for additional information, including eligibility information and instructions for applying.

Commodity Classic Housing Deadline Next Week
Commodity Classic—America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show—is scheduled for March 3-5, 2016 in New Orleans, La. America’s wheat growers will come together with corn, soybean, and sorghum growers, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, industry associations, agribusinesses and farm media at the event to network, meet industry thought leaders, share ideas, learn about new technologies and conduct association business.

A separate block of rooms has been reserved for NAWG members. To ensure your housing needs at the event are met, please contact Liz Leith at finance@wheatworld.org or (202) 547-7800 with your arrival and departure dates, bed preferences and any additional needs no later than December 9. After that date, the rooms will be released to general attendees and NAWG cannot guarantee availability for its members. For more information about Commodity Classic or to register, please visit http://www.commodityclassic.com/home.

Registration Opens for Winter Wheat Conference
Registration is now open for the NAWG/USW Join Winter Wheat Conference, scheduled for February 3-6, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Please click here to register. In additional to regular business and committee meetings, meeting participants will have an opportunity to network with industry partners and Congressional staff at NAWG’s annual Congressional reception co-sponsored by BNSF and hear from national leaders including Ambassador Darci Vetter.

A block of rooms is reserved at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill for meeting attendees. The deadline to reserve rooms at the conference rate of $219/night is Monday, January 4, 2016.