NAWG Weekly Update March 24, 2016

NWYC Entry Deadlines Approaching

The initial deadline for entering the winter wheat category of the new National Wheat Yield Contest (NWYC) is coming up April 1.  The FINAL deadline is May 1.  Please go to www.wheatfoundation.org or www.wheatworld.org and click on the NWYC “button” to enter.  The NWYC is a program of the National Wheat Foundation with goals to help enhance the quality and quantity of the U.S. wheat crop and to showcase U.S. wheat growers’ ability to produce the best quality wheat in the world.  The contest’s objectives are to drive innovation in the industry, enable knowledge transfer between growers, encourage the use of available technology, and identify top wheat growers across the nation.  You MUST be a member of a recognized state wheat grower organization to enter, or a member of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) if entering from a state where no recognized wheat grower organization exists.  Show your pride as a U.S. wheat grower and enter the NWYC today.

USDA Allows U.S. Commodity Checkoff Programs to Invest in Cuba

The USDA announced this week that funds from federally-authorized checkoff programs can be utilized for research and information exchange projects in Cuba. While U.S. wheat growers do not have a federally-authorized checkoff program, NAWG is supportive of any moves to improve trade ties with the island nation.  NAWG views the announcement as a step in the right direction toward liberalizing trade to the benefit of U.S. wheat growers. Although state-based wheat checkoff funds have been widely used for these kinds of activities, the use of producer-funded federal commodity checkoff funds in Cuba will provide much needed research and consumer education projects.

Joining President Obama on his historic trip to Cuba was Kansas Wheat Commissioner and wheat farmer Doug Keesling, who has been actively involved with the U.S. Ag Coalition for Cuba’s (USACC) state-based activities. As part of his trip, Keesling participated in an event with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Amy Klobuchar (MN) as well as Rep. Tom Emmer (MN) to highlight the potential economic benefits for agriculture associated with liberalizing trade between the two countries.

NAWG continues to advocate for Congressional action on pending legislation to end the embargo and eliminate financing restrictions on the purchase of U.S. agricultural products. Current restrictions make U.S.-grown wheat unattractive, and as a result, Cuba buys most of its wheat from Canada and the E.U. Liberalizing trade with Cuba could mean a significant new market for U.S. wheat producers.

Updated Study Shows China’s Excessive Wheat Subsidies Continue to Harm U.S. Wheat Farmers

On Thursday, NAWG joined with U.S. Wheat Associates in releasing an updated study quantifying the growing economic impact of China’s domestic support programs on U.S. farmers.  Last September, NAWG and USW released the results of a broader study conducted by Iowa State University economist Dr. Dermot Hayes which showed that China’s excessive wheat subsidies caused U.S. wheat farmers to be losing out on $550 million in the form of lost revenue resulting from depressed world prices.  The updated study released on Thursday demonstrates that the impact of China’s programs has grown since then by 16% to a $653 million impact.  This econometric study follows a 2014 study conducted by DTB associates which explained how China subsidizes its farmers and demonstrated the degree to which that country is exceeding its commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“NAWG supports free trade and supports Congressional ratification of TPP,” said NAWG President Gordon Stoner.  “But trade agreements cannot meet their promise if other countries ignore the rules.  It is time for the Administration to seek enforcement through the WTO.”

NAWG Signs Appropriations Letter Urging Resolution of OSHA Requirements

NAWG and other agri-businesses have signed onto an appropriations letter addressed to the Senate Appropriations Committee, urging the Committee to resolve the Occupation Safety & Heath Administration’s (OSHA) arbitrary and abrupt change in its Process Safety Management (PSM) “retail facility” interpretation. This change would establish new and stricter regulations for farm supply retailers, who were previously exempt from PSM standards. The consequences of OSHA’s change in PSM standards would add significant costs to farm supply retailers, including storage, handling, and security regulations for anhydrous ammonia, which is an essential crop nutrient product. With these new costs, retailers are considering eliminating anhydrous ammonia from their businesses, which would reduce the availability of a critical product and ultimately hurt American agriculture. NAWG and other organizations are requesting that the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies include language in the FY17 Appropriations Bill that would disallow OSHA to follow through on its requirements without the proper rulemaking procedures, public participation, and cost-benefit analyses. NAWG supports the efforts of such measures to allow for public input when major policy changes are made that would cause significant burdens, and is requesting the support of the Appropriations Committee.

Deadline for Participation in Conservation Stewardship Program Fast Approaching

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which is USDA’s largest conservation program, helps producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands. Applications for the CSP are due by March 31 to ensure consideration for enrollment in 2016. Voluntary participation by producers in CSP has made improvements in soil and air quality, clean water conservation, and the wildlife habitats. Application for CSP involves a survey of producers’ land to determine its conservation potential for existing and new activities, which will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments. Participation in CSP allows producers to do their part in achieving higher levels of conservation and adopting new conservation technologies for farms, ranches, and forests. For more information or to apply for the program, contact your local USDA service center.

Kellogg, Mars and Others Join Campbell’s in Labeling GMOs, In Response to Vermont Bill

With the defeat of the Senator Pat Roberts’ bill last week in the Senate, more and more corporations have announced plans to label products on a national scale in order to comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling requirements which will be taking effect in July. Following Campbell Soup’s announcement in January that it would start to label its biotech products, Kellogg Co., Mars Inc., General Mills, and ConAgra Foods have all joined Campbell’s in setting plans in motion to conform with the Vermont law. Unless compromises are made regarding the passage of a preemption bill in the next few weeks following the Easter recess, Vermont will become the first state to establish a mandatory GMO labeling law. Although the law is only in Vermont right now, the corporations will be carrying out the requirements nationally, to avoid price differences from state to state and distribution concerns. However, with the exception of Campbell’s, these companies are labeling only in compliance with pending Vermont implementation and do not support mandatory labeling, urging Congress to reconsider a federal solution to preemption. They also have made clear their beliefs that genetically engineered ingredients are a healthy and safe option, and that their plans to label GMO foods is due only to compliance with the law. NAWG supports efforts by Congress to pass a preemption bill that would block states from enacting differing labeling laws, resulting in a patchwork of regulations, and create a voluntary labeling program.

NAWG is Now Accepting Applications for its Summer 2016 Internship Program

NAWG’s internship program provides sophomores, juniors, or seniors in college with the opportunity to gain real-world experience in policy development. Applications are due by May 1, 2016 to be considered for the summer internship, which would take place in Washington D.C, beginning on June 1 with a flexible end date. As an hourly paid temporary employee, interns would gain experience in both communications and legislative work. Successful applicants must be excellent writers and communicators with a demonstrated interest in and connection to agriculture, policy, and government, as well as being interested in pursuing an agriculturally-related career after graduation. The materials required for application and further information are available on the NAWG website.