NAWG Weekly Update: October 22, 2015

Senate Agriculture Committee Talks Biotechnology
For the first time in 10 years, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on biotechnology. In speaking on the importance of the advancements made in those 10 years, Chairman Roberts (R-KS) called biotechnology a “topic that is of utmost importance for producers in meeting the global food challenge.”

Testimonies were heard from government agencies on regulatory efforts on biotechnology including U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The committee also heard from a variety of witnesses along the value chain including a producer, a food manufacturer, consumer groups and a medical expert.

Although the hearing largely focused on the regulatory aspect of biotechnology, GMO labeling was also discussed in testimony and follow up questions. Ranking Member Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she is working with Senator Hoeven (R-ND) and Chairman Roberts on a GMO labeling bill, stating that the bill will be different from the version passed by the House earlier in the year, as she does not believe the House-passed bill could pass in the Senate. View the full testimonies and hearing here.

House Agriculture Committee Looks at Foreign Subsidies  
The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week to explore foreign subsidies and the distorting impact those subsidies have on markets, putting U.S. agriculture products at a disadvantage. Dr. Dermot Hayes, Professor and Pioneer Chair in Agribusiness at Iowa State University, was among the witnesses. Dr. Hayes recently conducted a study, funded by the U.S. Wheat Associates that looked at the economic impacts that China, India, Turkey, Brazil and other developed countries’ support programs have on the U.S. producer. The study found that these four countries exceed their trade commitments, resulting in driving down prices received by the U.S. producers. The other testimonies reviewed programs that distort cotton, sugar and dairy. The Committee dived into particular programs and possible avenues the U.S. could take to prevent further loss and market distortion. The Committee also questioned the witnesses on their opinion on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Although the full text of the TPP agreement is not available, the witnesses provided a positive outlook on the deal but could not give full support without reviewing first. Read more about the hearing here.

NAWG Participates in Pollinator Conferences
This week NAWG staff participated in back-to-back pollinator related conferences important to wheat growers: the Honey Bee Health Coalition (HBHC) and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) International Conference. HBHC has been in existence for 18 months, and is making progress towards a coordinated agricultural solution to providing greater protection for the declining honey bee population and providing opportunities for honeybee colonies to grow and thrive. Participants included representatives of federal agencies, agriculture and non-agriculture industry organizations, tech providers and state departments of agriculture, among others. Presentations were made after lengthy discussions by the four working groups that include hive management, crop pest management, forage and nutrition and outreach and education. Many of the HBHC participants attended the following NAPPC International Conference where a myriad of experts on pollinator protection provided updates on honeybee health grants ranging from the impact of insecticides on hive health to the ability of honeybees to self-medicate.

NWF Announces 2015 Wheat Harvest Photo Contest Winners
This week the National Wheat Foundation (NWF) announced the winners of the 2015 Wheat Harvest Photo Contest. Over 300 photos were submitted through e-mail and shared on NWF’s Facebook page and website. NWF’s directors voted to determine the winning photos.

First place, receiving an iPad, is Michelle Jones. Michelle’s photo was taken near Broadview, Mont. The three runners up, each receiving a $50 gift card, are Brittany Van Driesten’s photo taken near Danville, Kan., Casey Graham’s photo taken near Simla, Colo., and Brenna Rietmann’s photo taken near Ione, Ore. The winning photos will be displayed in the Wheat Growers office in Washington, D.C.

Check out the winning photos here.

NWF Recaps “The Truth About Glyphosate” Blog Series
This week the NWF blog, The Word on Wheat, wrapped up the five part series titled, “The Truth About Glyphosate.” The final part takes a look back with a recap of everything we’ve learned about glyphosate.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many “non-selective” herbicide formulations, used to control weeds. Non-selective herbicides control most plants, while selective herbicides are designed to control specific types of plants. Farmers apply non-selective herbicides to control weeds before crop planting. Most farmers choose glyphosate-based herbicides because they are a simple and cost-effective way of controlling many types of weeds. Glyphosate-based products are popular outside of agriculture, too. They are also commonly used to control weeds in gardens and around lawns. Read the full recap here.