NAWG Weekly Update: October 8, 2015

NWF Launches Inaugural National Wheat Yield Contest
The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) launched the first National Wheat Yield Contest in more than 20 years this week, publically announcing the official contest rules and opening registration. The highly anticipated yield competition is made possible by the generous support of industry category partners BASF, Monsanto, John Deere and WinField.

“We have been eagerly awaiting the launch of the National Wheat Yield Contest and look forward to U.S. wheat farmers competing with the best available technology to demonstrate how they can increase productivity, drive innovation and enable knowledge transfer between growers,” said NWF Chairman Dusty Tallman, a wheat grower from Brandon, Colo.

Wheat growers can compete in two primary contest categories: winter wheat and spring wheat. There will be two sub-categories for each category, respectively, for dry land and irrigated wheat production. Entrants must be a producer, at least 14 years of age and a member of their recognized state wheat grower association or, if from a state without a recognized state wheat grower organization, a member of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). All contest entries must use certified or branded, and currently commercially available, wheat seed.

Five national winners will be recognized in each category and sub-category. Winners of the inaugural contest will be formally recognized at the 2017 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. For full contest rules and to enter the 2015-16 National Wheat Yield Contest, go to the NWF website at wheatfoundation.org.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations Conclude
On Monday, the lead negotiators for countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks announced they had concluded negotiations. While the text of the agreement has not been finalized, rules under the Trade Promotion Authority require President Obama to notify Congress 90 days before he intends to sign the agreement, and the text of the agreement must be made available to the public for 60 days. Congress must also vote on the agreement itself with a simple majority vote threshold in both chambers.

NAWG has been very engaged to ensure wheat growers’ interests were protected and looks forward to working with Congress to determine how the agreement impacts U.S. wheat growers. NAWG President Brett Blankenship said, “Trade agreements are essential for U.S. wheat growers with more than 50 percent of our crop heading overseas. Concluding TPP negotiations is a step in the right direction.”

Following the announcement of the conclusion of the talks, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack praised the agreement saying, “An agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations provides a more level playing field in trade for American farmers. The agreement would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs on our producers and deter non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary barriers that have put American agriculture at a disadvantage in TPP countries in the past.”

Though the details of the agreement have not been officially released, USDA has made available a series of fact sheets intended to illustrate the benefits of TPP on a state-by-state and a commodity basis. Information about wheat can be found here.

Ag and Industry Groups Urge Congress to Extend PTC Deadline
In 2008 following a deadly commuter train crash, Congress passed legislation that would require the railroads to install Positive Train Control (PTC) technology to enhance the safety of train operations. The congressionally mandated deadline for PTC to be up and running is December 31, 2015. Though the railroads have been working to fully implement PTC, there have been a number of challenges along the way that have made it impossible to have the technology fully implemented by the statutory deadline. The Government Accountability Office recently released a report supporting this conclusion. As such, the broad agricultural community, including NAWG, has engaged in a number of advocacy efforts to request that Congress extend the enforcement deadline. It remains to be seen what the path forward will be for an extension. Possible options include congressional consideration of standalone legislation, or an extension could be included as part of a broader highway transportation bill, which Congress must consider before the current authorization expires on October 29.

NAWG Attends Weed Resistance Global Symposium
The Weed Resistance Global Symposium, sponsored by Bayer CropScience AG and held in Paris, France, addressed the challenge of herbicide resistance from a global perspective. Leading experts in the field of weed science presented the latest research findings and information on resistant weeds for the main broad acre crops, including wheat. The Symposium offered a forum for discussion and exchange of experiences for the implementation of practical integrated weed management solutions.

Over the last 15 years, global weed resistance has increased by 60 percent. In the United States, 57 percent of farmers indicated experience with glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farms in 2014, and 13 weed species are now confirmed resistant to five different herbicides. It is clearly a burgeoning issue that threatens productivity for many farmers. Bayer CropScience is urging all stakeholders, including those on the farm and in public and private institutions, to do more at all levels to educate about resistance and to promote practices that include the integration of chemical and non-chemical management practices to prevent the obsolescence of current weed control measures.

Over 240 people attended the Symposium. Gordon Stoner, NAWG first vice president from Outlook, Mont., Tyler Anderson, chair NAWG Research and Technology Committee from Pine Bluffs, Wyo. and NAWG staff represented U.S. wheat farmers at the event.