NAWG Weekly Update September 8, 2016

NAWG Leaders, Staff Visit West Coast

This week, NAWG President Gordon Stoner, Vice President David Schemm, CEO Chandler Goule and policy staff members were in Portland, Oregon for a series of meetings to discuss rail transportation, international trade, and agricultural research.  As part of the trip, the participants toured the Port of Vancouver to get a better understanding of the logistical requirements of sending American-grown wheat abroad.  President Stoner and NAWG staff also visited the Portland office for U.S. Wheat Associates to discuss current trade trends as well as the Wheat Marketing Center, which houses wheat utilization research projects, conducts educational programs, and serves as a bridge between wheat customers and wheat producers.  In preparation for the next round of federal appropriations, NAWG also met with Dr. Robert Zemetra of Oregon State University, who currently serves as the chairman of the National Wheat Improvement Committee.  NWIC establishes priorities for federal wheat research funding.

FSA Announces $185 Million in Funds for Loan Programs

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that it will make available $185 million for the direct and guaranteed operating loan programs. Given the historic low prices that wheat has seen for the past week, this is good news for growers who are hit the hardest by the economic downturn in wheat prices. The announcement, made by FSA Administrator Val Dolcini, emphasized that funding would assist more than 1,900 approved applicants awaiting farm operating loans. Although the backlog for these loans is large, this move by the FSA is progress towards providing wheat growers with the financial backing they need to succeed and maintain the great reputation American wheat has.

Dolcini stated that due to market conditions, demands for FSA loan funds have been in higher demand in past years, making a backlog in loan applications difficult to cut through. However, the new availability of these funds will help applicants who have been waiting the longest period of time to obtain credit or restructure loans. Dolcini urged borrowers to continue to apply for loans, as loan processing is on a first-come-first-served basis according to the application date.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Access to Voluntary Farm Conservation Programs

This week, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Boozman (R-AR) introduced the Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act which is a bipartisan effort to improve farmer access to the voluntary farm conservation programs run through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). NRCS works with farmers to improve conservation efforts. However, the federal reporting regulations which are required when operating conservation programs have made it difficult for some farmers to participate in the programs. The requirement for producers to obtain and maintain Dun & Bradstreet’s (DUNS) and System of Award Management (SAM) numbers have created an additional burden for program participation. Klobuchar and Boozman’s bill would remove this barrier to the program, allowing farmers to take advantage of the NRCS’s assistance in conservation programs, including the cost-share program which helps farmers with the cost of implementing conservation measures.

Upcoming Hearings on CFTC Nominees and Agricultural Trade in Cuba

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry announced that the Committee will hold a hearing to consider nominees for Commissions of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The hearing will take place on Thursday, September 15 at 10 a.m. and will consider Christopher Brummer and Brian Quintenz as Commissioners of the CFTC. The hearing will be live streamed here. Additionally, The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing called “American Agricultural Trade with Cuba” next Wednesday, September 14 at 10 a.m. The hearing will likely be streamed 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.