NAWG Weekly Update: February 10, 2017

Wheat Industry converges to develop Farm Bill Priorities at annual Wheat Industry Winter Conference

Domestic and Trade Policy Committee

NAWG’s Domestic and Trade Policy Committee discussed a number of topics in preparation for development of the next Farm Bill.  The Committee discussed the economic conditions in wheat country, including the impact of non-convergence between the local cash price and the Hard Red Winter wheat futures market.  Producers have been experiencing a particularly wide basis (over $1.50 per bushel in some areas), which has implications for crop insurance and farm programs, as the price that a farmer is actually receiving for their wheat is lower than what’s factored into those programs.

The Committee also delved into the impact of quality issues resulting from low Falling Numbers in the Pacific Northwest as well as other quality issues like vomitoxin.  Some states have had interest in working to identify whether adjustments can be made to quality adjustment discount factors or whether there are other policy changes that could be made to help farmers when they are affected by conditions outside of their control.

And finally the Committee continued its internal discussions to develop priorities for the next Farm Bill.  In the lead up to the organization’s next board meeting at Commodity Classic in early March, NAWG urges its state association members to have discussions at their local levels and to come to Commodity Classic prepared to debate and settle on priorities.

Environment and Renewable Resources Committee

Environment and Renewable Resources Committee met on Tuesday morning last week to discuss conservation and the next Farm Bill, regulatory reform and other policy issues.  Committee members heard from staff members from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees regarding conservation program oversight and the committees’ schedules for gathering information on the current Farm Bill.  The Nature Conservancy also joined the committee to discuss their recent work on soil health. The committee approved support for the regulatory reform bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act, that passed in the House in January.  The NAWG board subsequently approved support for the regulatory reform bill.

Research and Technology Committee 

The Research and Technology Committee met last week, January 31st, at NAWG’s Winter Wheat Conference and Board meeting. The committee was updated by a speaker from National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) on the International Wheat Yield Partnership and the grants issued for its purpose. The Goal of the IWYP is to increase wheat yield 15% over 20 years in all participating countries, including the US.

The Committee was also briefed on USDA’s publication outlining the proposed rule governing Importation, Interstate Movement, and Release into the Environment of Genetically Engineered Organisms, which requests public input on the proposed rule changes to CFR Part 340 from credible sources.

USDA’s proposed rule recognizes that some applications of gene editing result in plant varieties that are essentially equivalent to varieties developed through more traditional breeding methods, and treats these varieties accordingly and without regulation oversight. Despite the positive aspects of the proposed rule regarding certain applications of gene editing, the regulatory system described in the proposal creates significant uncertainty for other gene edited products that will be subject to pre-market regulatory oversight. These and potentially other issues will need to be monitored and input submitted from NAWG before APHIS issues its final rule. The NAWG Board approved its support in using wheat as the lead commodity crop to advocate for reduced regulation of plant improvement technologies as the U.S. agencies (USDA, FDA, EPA) governing rules are revised.

Joint International Trade Policy Committee

NAWG along with the US Wheat Associates (USW) also held two Joint Committee meetings at last week’s Winter Wheat Conference. The Joint International Trade Policy Committee met Tuesday. Ben Conner from USW covered policy priorities in the categories of trade agreement monitoring and enforcement, negotiating trade rules, sanctioned countries, and market development. Jason Hafemeister, the Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service at USDA, presented on USDA trade policy efforts. The committee was also provided more information on how MAP and FMD benefit U.S. wheat farmers and talked about how USW uses that funding to keep and grow U.S. markets around the world. Sean Warren, the International Trade Counsel for Senator Hatch, gave a Congressional Trade Policy update.

Joint Biotech Committee

The Joint Biotech Committee was called to order Tuesday afternoon where they first heard company updates from Syngenta, Bayer, Monsanto and KWS.  Mike Hawkins, Agriculture Counsellor at the Embassy of Canada responsible for grains and other crops, presented on Canada’s regulation and plant breeding innovation. Molly O’Connor with NAWG gave a brief update on the APHIS Part 340 proposed rule and FDA gene editing documents, both of which have requested comments from the public. Elizabeth Westendorf with USW provided updates on plant innovation messaging material.

Congress moves forward with regulation reduction

This week, Congressman Bob Gibbs introduced the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act to eliminate on the duplicative permit requirement for use of pesticides that have already been approved by the EPA in the Federal Insecticide Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Senator Crapo also introduced similar legislation in the Senate this week. The National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), a permit under the Clean Water Act that addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States, adds additional and unnecessary burdens to producers applying pesticides on or near water. The Environmental Protection Agency’s FIFRA registration and review of crop protection products takes into consideration environmental and human risk and it is unnecessary to have both requirements. The National Association of Wheat Growers supports this effort of reducing those burdens and applauds the introduction of this legislation that would bring regulatory clarity on pesticide applications.

House Ag to Review state of the Farm Economy

The federal crop insurance program has functioned as the most important risk management tool available to producers where farmers pay a premium for their policies, just like any other type of insurance. The last Farm Bill was written when the economic conditions were not as harsh as what farmers are currently facing where wheat prices have dropped far below loan rates in some areas. With these harsh economic conditions for wheat producers, the National Association of Wheat Growers looks forward to the upcoming House and Senate hearings in preparation  for the 2018 Farm Bill. The House Ag Committee will host two public hearings “Rural Economic Outlook: Setting the Stage for the Next Farm Bill” as well as the “Pros and Cons of Restricting SNAP Purchases” on February 15th and 16th at 1300 Longworth House Office Building.  Both of these hearings will have implications for the Farm Bill reauthorization process, particularly with the economic hearing laying some context for the need for a farm safety net. Additionally, The Senate Agriculture Committee will host its first Farm Bill field hearing, “Hearing from the Heartland,” in Manhattan, Kansas on Thursday, February 23rd which will be webcast live at ag.senate.gov.  The National Association of Wheat Growers will look forward to the robust discussions at these hearings and encourage both chambers of Congress to continue to actively seek producer input in writing the next Farm Bill to ensure programs work effectively. For more information on the House hearings and for more information on the Senate hearing.

Field to Market Metrics Integrated into Farm Management Software

Today, Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture announced that the Fieldprint Platform metrics have been integrated into Syngenta’s Ag Connections Land.db; Agrible’s Morning Farm Report and Heartland Science and Technology Group’s Precision Conservation Management Portal. This action allows the metrics that are used in the Fieldprint Calculator to be directly linked to these individual software programs through a Fieldprint Application Programming Interface (API).  Producers using these software programs will be able to assess sustainability in addition to the other management, precision agriculture and decision support information three programs may provide to users. Additional information on the Fieldprint Platform and this announcement can be found at http://fieldtomarket.org/

National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC) has scheduled its Annual Fly In to DC

The Fly In allows wheat researchers the opportunity to position the issues and needs of wheat research with congressional ag leaders. The NWIC is a wheat improvement group of experts available to consult on emerging issues pertaining to wheat and are responsible for representing wheat issues to Congress. The Fly In has been scheduled for March 19-21, 2017.