NAWG Weekly Update: October 6, 2016

USDA Sends Out 2015 Crop Year ARC, PLC Payments

On Tuesday, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced farm program payments would be going out for the 2015 crop year through the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) County program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program, which were both created in the 2014 Farm Bill. These programs provide essential revenue and price support for farmers across the country. In total, more than $7 billion in payments are being made through these programs, including around $1 billion in assistance for wheat farmers.

With this announcement, NAWG will dig deeper into the data that was used to calculate county payment rates and will seek feedback from states about the effectiveness of these programs. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has posted maps on its website showing the payment rate ranges for wheat, corn, and soybeans through the ARC-County program, as well as revenue maps for those commodities. Those maps can be found at this link. As required by Congress in the Budget Control Act of 2011, all payments are reduced by 6.8 percent as part of sequestration requirements.

FAPRI Report Reflects the Need to Maintain a Strong Farm Bill

On Monday, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) released its most recent “Baseline Update for U.S. Farm Income and Government Outlays” report.  In the report, FAPRI anticipates that net farm income in 2016 will decline by $10 billion and will represent the third year in a row of decline.  Additionally, expected net farm income will “remain well below recent peaks for the next several years.”  The report includes a number of statistics estimating land rental rates, asset value, cash receipts, farm program spending, and other data.

The drastic and continual decline in net farm income is more evidence to the fact that the rural economy is struggling amidst historically low commodity prices.  The commodity programs established in the 2014 Farm Bill, along with the federal crop insurance program, are absolutely critical to enable farmers to manage some of the market and production risk they’ve faced the past few years.

NAWG Comments on EPA Panel on Glyphosate

This week, NAWG provided comments to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Advisory Panel that will examine the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate, which is an integral crop input tool for wheat production in the U.S and has a long history of safe use. In the comments, NAWG emphasizes that glyphosate has allowed wheat farmers to adopt conservation practices which mitigate the effects of soil and wind erosion, as well as improve the water and air quality as a result of no-till and reduced tillage practices. Without the chemicals, like glyphosate, that allow farmers to adopt conservation practices without losing crop productivity, wheat growers would not be as successful in their conservation practices. With these and other considerations in mind, NAWG asks the Panel to conduct a timely and science-based review of glyphosate that takes into account the research demonstrating the safety of the herbicide and the important benefits it brings to wheat and other farmers.

6th Circuit Court of Appeals Exempts Army Corp of Engineers Memos

This week, the panel from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals which has been hearing the challenges to the EPA’s Water of the U.S. rule ruled this week that it will not consider several Army Corps of Engineers memos that revealed concerns regarding the W.O.T.US rule and the rulemaking process. The memos, which were released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last year, describe the Corps’ opinion that the W.O.T.U.S. documents “contain numerous inappropriate assumptions with no connection to the data provided, misapplied data, analytical deficiencies and logical inconsistences.” The ruling that these memos will not be used in the court’s decision is a challenge to states and companies seeking to overturn the burdensome regulation.

U.S. Wheat Associates Testifies at USTR about China’s Non-compliance with WTO Commitments

By U.S. Wheat Vice President for Policy Dalton Henry

In his testimony Oct. 5 at the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) annual public hearing on China’s compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments, USW President Alan Tracy thanked the USTR staff for their recent enforcement actions against China’s domestic support subsidies for corn, rice and wheat. “China is the world’s largest wheat producing country and the steps they have taken to support their producers harm wheat producers all over the world,” he said. “For our wheat farmers here in the United States, those effects are real, significant and ongoing, and they could not be happening at a worse time, as wheat prices hover near recent historic lows.”

Tracy also used the occasion to highlight additional Chinese policies that hinder U.S. wheat exports, notably troublesome administration of their 9.64 million metric ton wheat tariff rate quota (TRQ). Upon its accession to the WTO in 2001, China agreed to implement a TRQ for wheat at a 1% duty with specific provisions intended to ensure the Chinese government couldn’t artificially restrict imports through government owned companies. Those provisions included transparency and reallocation mechanisms that should allow the TRQ to fill under today’s market conditions, with China’s domestic wheat prices nearly double international prices. Tracy encouraged additional work on TRQ barriers saying, “The value of a successful challenge of China’s subsidy programs will be significantly impaired unless China also removes its other restrictions on wheat imports.”

Enforcement of past trade commitments remains a top priority for USW and NAWG, as effective enforcement shows a pro-trade agenda works for U.S farmers. To read the full testimony click here.

EPA Releases Proposed Changes to RFS Program

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its proposed Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support rule, which is intended to supplement the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program and other fuel regulations, to encourage the growth of ethanol and other renewable fuels. The proposal will update the regulatory structure to allow biofuel producers to partially process renewable feedstocks at one facility and further process them into renewable fuels at another facility under existing pathways, thereby increasing the efficiency of biofuel production, particularly with advanced and cellulosic fuels that have lower carbon footprints. EPA will be seeking comments on these proposed regulations for 60 days following the date of publication in the Federal Register.

NWF Accepting Applications for Jerry Minore Scholarship
The NWF is accepting applications for the 2016 Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship. Four scholarships will be awarded to students who have a personal connection to the wheat industry and a planned career path in agriculture. In its fifth year, the Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship honors both high school and college students who have demonstrated success in academics and leadership roles.

The scholarship is named in honor of Jerry Minore, a longtime friend of, and an active participant in, the wheat industry. To honor Jerry’s life and work, the Minore Memorial Scholarship will fund two $1,500 scholarships and two $1,000 scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year. All applications must be received via e-mail on or before December 31, 2016. Applications can be e-mailed to pmillard@wheatworld.org.