NAWG Weekly Update: September 22, 2016

NAWG Submits Testimony for Senate Ag Committee Farm Economy Hearing
On Wednesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing to review the state of the farm economy, which included testimony from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.  Particularly given the limited Congressional schedule in September, the scheduling of this hearing highlights the high level attention that Chairman Pat Roberts, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, and members of the Committee are giving to the difficult economic circumstances in farm country.  In his opening remarks, Chairman Roberts specifically raised the conditions in wheat country, including the large harvest as well as extremely low prices that have triggered loan rates in Kansas and throughout the country.

NAWG President Gordon Stoner filed written testimony to be included as part of the Congressional Record.  His testimony discussed the dire situation for wheat farmers resulting from prices that aren’t covering cost of production, and the outlook that the situation will not improve anytime soon.  Stoner also discussed NAWG’s efforts to get feedback from our producers via a Farm Bill survey, the information from which will serve to guide the development of NAWG’s priorities for the next Farm Bill.  Video from the hearing and Secretary Vilsack’s testimony can be found at this link.

Congress Recognize Voluntary Conservation Works
Today the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee held a hearing on the successes of voluntary conservation efforts to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. NAWG is pleased to see action being taken in discussing the positive effects of voluntary conservation practices on the environment, particularly with recent successes of efforts to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Independent reports have shown positive trends in water quality, habitat, and ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay, due to a focused conservation effort by the NRCS with voluntary investment and participation from farmers. In the Bay watershed alone, the NRCS has invested over $890 million federal conservation funding since 2009, while farmers voluntarily contribute financial and management resources, increasing the investment by about $400 million. With state and local governments providing substantial assistance, conservation practices have been successfully implemented in the Bay area. NAWG encourages Congress to continue support for investment in voluntary conservation practices, as it allows farmers to flexibly participate in conservation without unnecessary restrictions and regulatory burdens, while also actively improving the environment in tangible and positive ways.

Senate Judiciary Committee Reviews the Impact of Proposed Ag Mergers
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to review the impact of consolidation in the agricultural industry.  Following several recent proposed mergers in the seed and agrochemical industries, this hearing was convened to hear testimony from senior leadership of Bayer, Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, and Syngenta, as well as from the Antitrust Institute, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, and the National Corn Growers Association.  Throughout the hearing, there were a number of inquiries about how the companies’ seed and chemical research and production operations would be affected by the various mergers.  Concerns were also discussed about a number of specific examples, including the impact  ChemChina’s proposed acquisition of Syngenta could have on China’s process for approving new traits.  Video and written testimony from the hearing can be found at this link.

NAWG Seeks Nominations for Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow Program
As the Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow (WILOT) Program is fast approaching, NAWG is seeking nominations by our state associations of potential leaders to enroll. This program is sponsored and produced annually by Monsanto in partnership with the National Wheat Foundation and is targeted at producers who want to take on a greater role of leadership becoming more involved in their state wheat grower associations or by pursuing a position on the NAWG officer team. WILOT includes sessions on personal skills identification, establishing rapport with an uninformed public, and effectively engaging the public through new and traditional media outlets. Nominees should be current or up-and-coming farming leaders who currently hold leadership positions or those who aspire to, either within their state associations or with NAWG. Your nominations should include your nominee’s résumé and at least one paragraph sharing why they should be selected.  Please submit your nominations by Wednesday, October 5th.  In participating in WILOT, travel, hotel accommodations, and meals will be covered through the program. The program will take place in St. Louis, MO, from November 13-18, 2016.

Cuba Flour Millers Exchange Information with Kansas Wheat Farmers
Kansas Wheat is hosting an informational exchange with a group of Cuban flour mill professionals this week. This first-of-its-kind event allows these Cuban millers to experience Kansas farming and its wheat industry first hand. The millers represent two of the six flour mills in Cuba. Technical Specialist Marcelo Mitre from the USW Mexico City office is traveling with the team.

The trip included a visit to Kansas Wheat Commissioner Jay Armstrong’s farm, opportunities to discuss crop quality in the state with USDA and Kansas Wheat representatives, as well as tours of the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, the IGP Institute, the Hal Ross Flour Mill and the Kansas Grain Inspection Service.

Cuba imports all its wheat needs, but is not currently importing any wheat from the United States because of challenges related to the U.S. embargo. Total wheat imports from all origins in marketing year 20155/16 are estimated at 800,000 metric tons (29.4 million bushels).

“With current decade-low commodity prices and pressures on the U.S. ag economy, we need to be fostering trade partners and relationships, not prohibiting them,” said Jay Armstrong, past chairman of the Kansas Wheat Commission and a USW director. “Despite many difficulties associated with the U.S. trading with Cuba, it is apparent that we have a major transportation and logistical advantage in shipping, given Cuba’s proximity to the United States. A level playing field with Canada and Europe is critical for U.S. wheat farmers to fully realize their export potential to Cuba. Kansas wheat farmers support ending the embargo entirely.”

The week’s events kicked off Sept. 19, when Kansas Wheat joined Engage Cuba and other farm groups in launching the Engage Cuba Kansas State Council.

“Kansas wheat farmers are excited to be here today, to be founding members of the Engage Cuba Kansas State Council. By being members of this group, we can play an important role to influence significant decisions that have to be made before we can enjoy Cuba as a trading partner,” said Armstrong. Click here to read more.

Proposed Biotechnology Coordinated Framework
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has released the proposed update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology and are seeking public comment through the end of October. Last summer a memo was sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting these three agencies to review, analyze and modernize their relevant portions of the framework, for the first time since 1992. Within the proposal each agency identifies what responsibilities they currently oversee for biotechnology products, the current multiagency coordination plan and their proposed strategy for future regulation. The document outlines a focus to streamline and increase the transparency of the approval process, review how new technologies would be regulated and help small businesses interested in developing products. NAWG provided initial comments on the notice of request for information last October to provide input on a long term strategy and plans to continue monitoring the progress of the proposal. NAWG is especially sensitive to the new proposal’s treatment of new breeding techniques and supports a streamlined process for their review among these governmental agencies.

Find My Seed Technology Available for Farmer Use
NAWG recently learned of Agrible’s free seed selector tool, Find My Seed. Although this is not an endorsement, NAWG shares this information for growers to take advantage of if they wish. Find My Seed by Agrible, Inc. is an independent, unbiased, and free seed selector tool for wheat (summer and winter), corn, soybean, oat, barley, and cotton growers. Find My Seed combines over 300,000 third-party seed trial plots covering 20,000 varieties into an easy-to-use online interface that helps growers find the highest-yielding seed for their unique conditions. After a grower selects a few options based on criteria that is important to them, like location, soil type, seed technology, and brand, Find My Seed shows the top performing seeds based on these factors. All seed data is taken from independent studies from universities, independent researchers, and other third-party groups. It is then curated, standardized, and made easily searchable by an expert team of agronomists and developers.

Seeking Producer Participation for Study on “Smart Faming” Applications
AFC Consulting Group, a management consulting firm which specializes in the food value chain, is seeking producer participation in an international study on “Smart Farming” applications and software. Throughout this study, participating producers will share their feedback and evaluate how beneficial technologies are in their daily farm planning and management. Participants must speak English and have a general understanding of how to use “smart devices.” To participate in this study, contact study@afc.net with the subject “Smart Farming Apps—AFC Study 2016”. Click here for more information.