NAWG Weekly Update September 1, 2016

Decade Lows in Wheat Prices Supports Need for Effective Farm Bill

Record yields across the U.S. and favorable conditions around the world this harvest season have brought the lowest price of wheat in nearly a decade, with wheat futures down, causing a dilemma for elevator operators as an oversupply of wheat has caused over-capacity in some areas. Affecting everyone from farmers to agriculture suppliers, these depressed prices are contributing to a general downward spiral of the farm economy, exacerbated by the threat of cut to certain programs in the Farm Bill, such as crop insurance and Title 1 programs, which protect farmers in times like this. With stagnant markets, many producers aren’t able to cover their cost of production.

Rural communities and farmers’ livelihood are both in danger if this downward trend continues, which makes it ever more important that a functional and successful Farm Bill is developed and implemented in 2018. To achieve this goal, NAWG has developed and launched a Farm Bill Survey, intended to gather feedback from growers about what policies are most important to them. With the threat of continued low prices, it is increasingly important that growers’ priorities are heard and listened to as NAWG works towards an effective Farm Bill which will improve farm safety net programs, as well as maintain the already successful programs.

As a grassroots, membership-based organization, NAWG relies on input from wheat growers to proactively address wheat growers’ needs and translate these needs into a Farm Bill which will protect growers. The Farm Bill Survey asks farmers to describe their experiences with their crop insurance coverage, Title 1 programs like ARC and PLC, and Title 2 conservation programs. The planning and implementation of a functional 2018 Farm Bill depends on the active and insightful input from wheat growers, to clarify the successes and miss-steps from previous Farm Bills, improve programs that are not as effective as they could be, and maintain and improve the programs that benefit wheat growers.

NAWG encourages wheat growers to complete the NAWG Farm Bill Survey and contribute their voices to the planning of a successful Farm Bill. The Survey can be found on the NAWG website.

Wheat Industry Welcomes End to Japan’s Temporary Suspension of White Wheat Imports

National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) are pleased that Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) resumed tenders this week for new purchases of U.S. Western White (WW) wheat, a blend of soft white and club wheat. On Sept. 1, 2016, MAFF announced it had purchased 58,000 metric tons, or more than 2.13 million bushels, of WW for delivery in October.

MAFF had temporarily suspended new WW purchases following the announcement on July 29, 2016, by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that a small number of wheat plants containing an unapproved, genetically engineered (GE) event to resist the herbicide glyphosate were found in a fallow field in eastern Washington State.

NAWG and USW believe that this unexpected situation caused only a minor disruption in trade because every stakeholder approached it in a reasonable way. APHIS promptly identified the regulated wheat event, validated a detection method developed by Monsanto and made that test available to officials in Korea and Japan. Effective communications between government officials, including USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, the grain trade companies and customers kept the process moving in a positive way.

As a result, APHIS, MAFF and the Korean government have now tested thousands of samples of U.S. wheat and found no evidence of any GE material in commercial supplies, which reaffirms the conclusion that this was a limited, isolated situation.

The productive relationships wheat farmers and their representatives at USW, NAWG and state wheat organizations have built with customers at home and around the world also played an important part in resolving this incident.

Next Farm Bill Needs Focused Priority on Low Prices

This week, NAWG Vice President David Schemm is in Boone, Iowa at the Farm Progress Show, where he met with several media representatives to discuss the issues that are most relevant to wheat growers. The Farm Progress Show, the nation’s largest outdoor farm event, features displays and booths from equipment manufacturers, crop protection suppliers, and more. In speaking with several media spokespersons, from U.S. Farm Report to RFD-TV, Schemm highlighted the decade-low dive in wheat prices and the urgent need for farmer engagement in the development of the next Farm Bill to ensure programs provide an effective safety net for wheat growers. NAWG released a Farm Bill Survey this month to find out how programs are working and how they should be improved; it is more important now than ever to protect farmers against situations beyond their control. Schemm emphasized that NAWG will focus on protecting crop insurance as a key priority, as crop insurance has historically been a major issue for wheat growers. The survey asks farmers about their experiences with farm programs, crop insurance and conservation programs, to identify the priorities NAWG should consider in developing a strategy for the Farm Bill.

Additionally, in discussing the ARC and PLC programs, Schemm spoke on the need to adjust the data that’s used for setting ARC and PLC payments, so that payments are more reflective of the farmers’ actual experience. Schemm also spoke on the need to stabilize wheat acres planted, which has seen fluctuations due to price suppression, decreased wheat exports, and a high cost of production for wheat growers.  Schemm stated that the outlook for the future of wheat acreages could be affected by this year’s record wheat harvest.

NRCS Releases Updated CSP Enhancements

NRCS is undertaking a refresh of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for new fiscal year 2017 enrollments and today posted new and revised enhancements and program information on the USDA website.  NAWG’s Environment and Renewable Resources Committee and staff have been working with NRCS, participating in listening sessions and briefings throughout the CSP review process and welcomes the release of additional details about the changes.  The options for producers are increased, now providing over 200 “enhancements”, or the specific conservation activities that producers will undertake on their operations for payment under a 5 year CSP contract. Enrollment for CSP is expected to be open later this fall and producers will also experience a new enrollment process, with improved clarity in the application process, knowing earlier in the process if they qualify for CSP, or should look into other conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The revisions also include a more transparent payment schedule based on conservation practices, not points, making it clear for producers to understand the payment rates. CSP is now the largest USDA conservation program with over 70 million acres enrolled. The link to these enhancements is here.

Reminder: Respond to NAWG and NASS Surveys

NAWG is undertaking a survey process of wheat farmers to get feedback about Farm Bill programs and to lay the groundwork for developing Wheat’s priorities for the next Farm Bill.  The response has been outstanding so far, and we encourage you to share the link with your fellow wheat farmers.  It can be accessed here or by going to NAWG’s website.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is also in the process of gathering responses from its County Agricultural Production Survey.  Farm program payments through ARC and PLC are based on production data gathered through this confidential survey, and so it’s critically important that farmers who’ve received it in the mail respond to it.  As was noted in NAWG’s e-newsletter last week, the results of these surveys will be available in aggregate form only, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified.