NAWG Weekly Update March 31, 2016

Cover Crop Survey Underway
The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), the USDA Sustainable Research and Education (SARE) Program and the American Seed Trade Association are conducting a cover crop survey to gather information on whether or not producers are planting cover crops. The fourth annual survey should take 5-15 minutes to complete and is seeking information on decision making and the use of cover crops.  CTIC and SARE make the results of the survey public and the information helps to inform the debates on cover crop adoption, what influences decisions on the use of cover crops and soil health discussions.  You can take the survey, and opt to register to win a $100 gift card until May 1.  The survey can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ccsurvey2016. Past survey results are available on the CTIC website at: http://www.conservationinformation.org/Cover%20Crops/

Preparations for the 2017 Commodity Classic Begin in San Antonio
NAWG staff and representatives to the Commodity Classic Affiliate Council have been in San Antonio, TX this week, discussing the plans for the 2017 Commodity Classic to take place next March. Paul Penner, NAWG’s grower representative out of Kansas, and NAWG staff representative Liz Leith have been attending meetings with the Affiliate Council and the corporate board to discuss the results of the 2016 Commodity Classic in New Orleans, which had the largest attendance to date, with 9,770 attendees. Although attendance was at an all-time high, the Affiliate Council looks to associations to encourage higher attendance by farmers, who made up around half of attendees. Penner and Leith have met with growers and staff to discuss moving forward with the planning for next year’s event, which will feature exhibits from heavy-weight regular attendees such as Monsanto and John Deere. Efforts will be made to encourage farmer attendance, as well as determine ideal event locations and hotels for accessibility to the tradeshow.

USDA Announces Conservation Program Funding Availability
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding availability for the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and funded through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). With up to $20 million in grant funding, the program encourages the development of new and innovative conservation technologies for farmers and ranchers to utilize. Projects funded by the program help to alleviate water conservation challenges, as well as encourage investment by stakeholders in partnerships with farmers and ranchers. One of CIG’s main goals is to benefit historically underserved agricultural producers, and encourage the transfer of conservation technologies utilized in organic systems to those underserved producers, assisting the farmers in adequately and efficiently implementing these practices. In addition, Secretary Vilsack also announced a funding availability of up to $260 million for USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The program encourages investments in partner-led proposals comprised of local leadership, local and tribal governments, universities, and non-profits to work with farmers and ranchers to develop and utilize landscape- and watershed-scale conservation. Partner-led projects have used the RCPP system to address water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, control the advance of invasive plants in Oregon, and several other beneficial projects. USDA is now accepting proposals for FY17 RCPP funding. Please visit the RCPP website. Applications for both the CIG projects and RCPP projects are due to NRCS by May 10.

NAWG Leaders in D.C. This Week
NAWG President Gordon Stoner and Vice President David Schemm were in Washington, D.C. this week for meetings with other agriculture organizations to discuss a number of issues affecting the wheat industry. Stoner participated in a meeting of the Monsanto Grower Advisory Council, which includes leadership from many of the other general agriculture and commodity organizations, to discuss a variety of topics, including the state of the agricultural economy, new technologies, and political issues facing farm programs, among others. Schemm participated in a farm data meeting with other farm organization stakeholders to discuss issues surrounding transparency as well as the use of agricultural data, among others. The meeting also included an update from FSA Administrator Val Dolcini about USDA’s efforts to set up a one-stop reporting system for farmers to streamline their reporting to FSA and their crop insurance companies. Schemm is also in town to participate in a Field to Market Technology Committee meeting.

Surge in Big Companies Conforming to Vermont Law Invites Other GMO Labeling Bills
In the wake of the failed GMO labeling bill in the Senate before the Easter recess, additional New England states may be looking to pass their own labeling bills as big companies like General Mills, Mars, and Campbell’s begin to overhaul their labeling processes to conform with Vermont’s impending bill. States have been paying close attention to the conflict surrounding the preemption bill at the federal level, but with Senator Pat Roberts’ bill locked in a stand-off over mandatory vs. voluntary labeling, states like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island may try to capitalize on the momentum of the Vermont law and pass similar legislation. Some states, like Connecticut, will revise previous labeling laws that include trigger provisions that call for the passage of similar legislation in other states before the law goes into effect. Legislation considered by these New England states are the latest in a string of states that are already considering passing such legislation, such as Tennessee, Florida, Hawaii and more. These developments reflect the fact that one small state’s legislation can influence consumer costs for the whole country as national corporations move to conform to Vermont’s legislation, while opposing mandatory labeling and calling for Senate action to stop the bill. (Politico)

Communication Between Growers and Members More Important Than Ever

With Congress in recess this week, wheat growers should take this time to reach out to their Members of Congress to address issues such as the importance of defending crop insurance through the appropriations process, eliminating the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, and establishing a national voluntary standard for GMO labeling. Although much of the fight seems to be contained at the federal level, grassroots calls-to-action from the voices of growers and constituents matter the most in influencing policies that have significant implications for agriculture. As NAWG gears up to prioritize issues for the next Farm Bill, it is critical that growers be in communication with their representatives at the federal level and urge them to make decisions in the interest of farmers across the country.