NAWG Weekly Update: November 10, 2016

Last week, NAWG hosted and attended, in conjunction with U.S. Wheat Associates, the Fall Wheat Conference in Denver, Colorado.  NAWG and USW policy committees met and discussed policy priorities, heard from several speakers, and held joint and individual board meetings. An update from each committee is available below for your Weekly Update.

Domestic Trade & Policy Committee

The Domestic Trade & Policy Committee (DTPC) met at the Fall Conference and heard from Dr. Art Barnaby from Kansas State University, received a presentation from NAWG staff about Farm Bill survey results to date, and discussed Farm Bill priorities. The meeting began with a presentation from Dr. Barnaby and Dr. Dan O’Brien (also of Kansas State University) about non-convergence in the Hard Red Winter wheat futures market.  Non-convergence is when the local cash price doesn’t match the futures market.  The large wheat crop this year meant there has been widespread storage issues and historically low prices.  Limited storage capacity has caused a widening in the basis and caused farmers to receive lower prices for their crops.  Dr. Barnaby discussed the causes of non-convergence, possible policy alternatives for addressing the problem, as well as the role non-convergence plays in the federal crop insurance program.

Following Dr. Barnaby’s presentation, NAWG staff gave a presentation about the results to date of NAWG’s Farm Bill survey.  The survey remains open through December 15, and wheat growers across the country are strongly urged to provide their thoughts about how current farm programs and crop insurance are functioning.  NAWG expects that the Senate and House Agriculture Committees will quickly begin holding Farm Bill hearings early next year and input from growers at the grassroots level is critical to enable NAWG to effectively advocate on their behalf.

In addition to the survey presentation, the DTPC then moved into Executive Session to begin a discussion to develop NAWG’s priorities for the next Farm Bill.  Over the coming months in the lead-up to the Winter Wheat Conference at the end of January, the DTPC will hold a series of conference calls to discuss policy issues that arose during the Executive Session.

Environment and Renewable Resources Committee

The Environment and Renewable Resources Committee (ERR) met at the Fall Conference to hear from Michelle Marrone, of the bio-based chemistry and fuels firm Beta Renewables, based in Italy, and to discuss other policy issues. In hearing from Marrone, the ERR Committee learned how the company’s commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant can be used to allow wheat farmers to add value to straw residue. NAWG policy staff also updated the committee on several policy issues, such as Waters of the U.S., which NAWG opposes, the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC), and pesticide regulation issues. NAWG has worked in coalition with other industry leaders and organizations to support the continued registration of chlorpyrifos, as well as the continued use of sulfoxaflor on wheat, . NAWG policy staff also provided an update on the benefits of voluntary conservation programs and the committeediscussed the development of the next Farm Bill.

Research and Technology Committee

The Research and Technology Committee (R&T) met at the Fall Conference to hear an update from NAWG staff on the National Wheat Yield Contest (NWYC), the United Soybean Double Crop initiative, USDA APHIS Part 340, and other research issues. Although the winners of the NWYC will not be publicly announced until December, staff stated that there was an impressive number of entrants for the contest’s first year. The Committee also heard from Linda Kuhl and Dan Davidson from Illinois Soybean Association with an update on the United Soybean Board’s Double Crop initiative, which looks to improve the double crop soybeans and what cropping system. The program intends to develop strategies and education to increase yields and profitability of double crop beans without sacrificing wheat yields. Dr. Dan Voytas, Chief Science Officer from Calyxt, provided the Committee with an update on Calyxt’s gene editing. Currently, the company is working on powdery mildew in wheat. NAWG policy staff provided an update to the USDA APHIS Part 340, which is the authority mandated in the plant protection act regarding biotechnology. NAWG is concerned that a lack of transparency and clarity about their changes to the rule may result in regulatory delay and uncertain market acceptance. The Committee also received updates from several of NAWG’s research partners, including Bayer Crop Science, Sygenta, DuPont Pioneer, and John Deere.

Joint Biotechnology Committee

The Joint Biotechnology Committee (JBC) met at the Fall Conference to hear updates from industry leaders, and receive an update on biotechnology and biotech coordinated framework, and precision breeding techniques. In addition, U.S. Wheat Associates policy staff provided an overview of global biotechnology, particularly in developing countries where biotech crops allow for more economic benefits to farmers, as well as encourage technological progress and address food insecurity. Regarding precision breeding techniques, USW staff said that overseas growers are interested in the sequencing of the wheat genome, and look forward to new techniques being discussed by customers. Staff stated that it’s important that these technologies are not lumped with GMOs and the regulations that are associated with GMOs.

Joint International Trade Policy Committee

The Joint International Trade Policy Committee met at the Fall Conference, to hear updates from USW and NAWG staff on several issues. USW staff presented on trade policy issues in China and the current efforts for WTO enforcement of China’s domestic subsidy program. Staff also talked about ongoing efforts to push for a solution with China’s TRQ implementation. Staff then discussed current efforts to resolve the lack of WTO TRQ implementation in Brazil.

NAWG staff then gave an update on TTIP negotiations, which are moving slowly and have been controversial in the EU. Staff also updated the committee on NAWG’s recent meeting with the Canadian embassy and the strong positive response to our joint letter with NAWG, USW, and the Western Canadian Wheat Growers that was sent to Canadian Ministers of Agriculture and Trade. The NAWG staff also presented on current efforts to get TPP passed in a Lame Duck session and encouraged all members to write to their Congressional representatives before the election and urge the ratification of TPP.

Next, Kansas Wheat leadership gave a summary of Kansas’ efforts to bring a group of Cubans to Kansas and discussed some of the positive outcomes and relationship-building from that trip, as well as the complex logistics getting the trip organized. USW policy staff gave a status update on MAP/FMD funding discussions, and informed the committee that the Winter meeting would likely see a request to support coalition efforts to double funding for both programs. Finally, staff led a discussion on the 2017 Trade Policy Priorities and areas of opportunity that committee members thought should be focused on.

NAWG Board of Directors

The NAWG Board of Directors met on the last day of the Fall Conference, to hear updates from the committees and the work they did throughout the Conference, and to hear from several speakers, including U.S. Wheat Associates Chairman Jason Scott, and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Jonathan Cordone. Following reports from the NAWG Executive Board and committees, the full Board heard from Cordone, who spoke to the importance of foreign markets and international trade to American agriculture. Cordone emphasized that trade agreements are important for both advancing American agriculture and holding trading partners accountable for commitments. He stated that although the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has seen plenty of opposition, it is vital that it is passed in a Lame Duck session, as the agreement will open important markets for American growers. In addition, the full Board heard the results of the research conducted in the development process of the National Wheat Action Plan as well as the details of the NWAP itself. The intent of the National Wheat Action Plan is to unify the industry around common goals, identify priority areas to address declines, and increase grower investment in and implementation of modern wheat production practices, among other goals. The full Board heard the details of the plan and discussed plans for moving forward with implementation. The NAWG Board of Directors also participated in a closed session reviewing Farm Bill priorities discussed in committees.

National Wheat Foundation
The National Wheat Foundation, which is the charitable arm for NAWG, also met during the Conference to review a number of items, including the organization’s budget, an update about the Wheat Growers Building in Washington, DC, and an overview of the National Wheat Action Plan.  The board also discussed a number of other possible projects current under exploration.