NAWG Weekly Update July 7, 2016

Chandler Goule Starts at NAWG
New NAWG CEO Chandler Goule began his tenure at NAWG this week, with July 5 as his first day. Since finishing at National Farmers Union, where he was Senior Vice President of Programs, Chandler took a well-deserved vacation before diving in at NAWG to start his work in developing and maintaining industry relations, acting as Executive Director of the National Wheat Foundation, and leading NAWG’s advocacy for wheat growers. The NAWG office and board are excited to start working with Chandler and are glad to welcome him to the team.

NAWG Seeks Competitive Growers
Innovation and efficiency, it’s the future! For the first time in 20 years NAWG is putting on the National Wheat Yield Contest and is encouraging the nation’s producers to sign up online by the spring wheat sector deadline of August 1. The goals of this national contest are raising public interest within the industry, as well as encouraging producers to spread new methodologies and technologies for achieving maximally yielding results. The contest will also help to ensure a high quality supply of wheat to meet domestic and international demands. Entries for the spring wheat sector are due August 1 and the winner will be announced in the fall of 2016 and given the opportunity to attend the 2017 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas as the guest of the National Wheat Foundation. Sign up here.

House Deals With Cuba Amendments to Financial Services Appropriations Bill
This week, the House of Representatives considered the FY 2017 Financial Services Appropriations bill. Consideration was scheduled for earlier in June but was delayed due to the Democratic-Republican conflict over gun control regulations. During consideration this week, there was an amendment from Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) that was made in order that would lift the current financing restrictions which prohibit the United States from financing agricultural product sales to Cuba. Cuba is a very relevant target market for the wheat industry, with an average of 30 million bushels imported annually, making the country the largest market in the Caribbean for wheat.

During consideration, Rep. Crawford pulled the amendment from floor consideration after an informal agreement was reached whereby the primary opponents of expanding trade with Cuba in the House would work with Rep. Crawford and other proponents on finding a path forward for authorizing legislation that would ease the financing restrictions.

NAWG is highly supportive of efforts to liberalize trade with Cuba, and believes that doing so will allow the United States to take advantage of our ideal geographical location to Cuba. Moving forward, NAWG will continue to work with other members of the U.S. Ag Coalition for Cuba and our champions on the Hill, to move the needle on the Cuba trade relations debate.

Senate Gears Up for Their Final GMO Vote
Following the cloture vote yesterday, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote tonight on the GMO labeling agreement that has come forth from Senate Agricultural Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow. Yesterday the Senate took a cloture vote that ended in support by a 65-32 vote. Today’s final vote also needs 60 votes to pass.This proposal will allow various options to label biotech on consumer products. This legislation will ensure that safe and affordable technologies like biotech are protected from stigmatization from vilifying symbols. The Vermont law would allow for the development of other state labeling laws, resulting in a patchwork of inefficient and costly state laws that would increase costs for producers and consumers alike. The Roberts-Stabenow agreement will provide consumers with the information that they want about their food, while protecting their interests as consumers and ensuring that they will have safe and affordable food. Because of this, it is very important Senators hear what farmers are telling them, and vote to protect producers. Please contact your members, and urge others to do the same, and voice your opinion in support of this bill.

NAWG Supports Senator’s Letter to EPA Regarding RFS Proposed Rule
In reaction to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule setting blending targets under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2017, 39 Senators signed a letter to the EPA, urging them to protect the U.S. biofuel sector and economic opportunities by setting the blending targets at levels set by Congress. The RFS adopted in 2005, and expanded in 2007, was meant to implement a stable policy to promote innovation and investment in renewable fuels that will maximize biorefining capacity and distribution infrastructure to ensure access to biofuels for American consumers. This policy has since then produced hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in biofuels, leading to expanded production capacity of biofuels, the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, the reduction of the environmental impact of the transportation and energy sectors, and benefit to the agriculture economy. The EPA now has proposed to reduce the 2017 Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) under the RFS, which would send the wrong market signals and impact agricultural markets and investment in new technology, as well as cellulosic biofuels production. It is imperative that continued investment in biofuels is prioritized, as rural, agricultural communities will be impacted the hardest by a reduction in the proposed RVO. NAWG supports the RFS the way Congress passed it, and opposes the EPA’s proposed reduction. NAWG urges the EPA to thoroughly review the proposed 2017 RVO requirements and maintain the RFS as passed by Congress. EPA is accepting public comments on the 2017 RVO proposal through Monday, July 11.

House Votes to Pass Global Food Security Act, Now On to President’s Desk
This week, the House voted overwhelmingly (369-53) to pass the Global Food Security Act, which will authorize a $1 billion-a-year global program, known as Feed the Future, to address poverty and hunger by aiding farmers in poor countries. The Act passed the Senate in April, and has now garnered bipartisan support in the House. This development initiative will help continue to increase economic growth in countries with poor infrastructure to facilitate food security, and ensure that farmers in developing countries have the tools necessary to achieve self-sufficiency through agricultural development. The Act will require the administration to develop a whole-of-government plan for addressing food insecurity, while emphasizing agricultural development in rural communities. The Act will also secure the Emergency Food Security Program, which will be authorized to respond to emergency food needs of communities challenged by natural or manmade disasters, without threatening the food aid programs authorized by the farm bill, such as Food for Peace. Following this vote in the House, the Act will go on to President Obama’s desk where it’s expected he will sign it into law.

NAWG Hires Summer Intern Michael Granché
This week along with welcoming their new CEO, NAWG also welcomed their summer intern Michael Granché! Michael is a rising junior at Virginia Tech studying Applied Agricultural Economics as well as Animal Science. He serves as a student ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at his university. Michael is from Catlett, Virginia where he grew up on his family’s small beef farm; his hobbies include playing guitar and riding his unicycle. He is very excited to be on the NAWG team this summer and will be working alongside NAWG staff to gain experience in advocating for farmers through policy development and communications. His responsibilities vary from assisting with regular communications projects, and helping the policy department prepare for the Farm Bill by completing research and attending congressional hearings.