NAWG Weekly Updates, June 15, 2017

NAWG Joins US Wheat Associates in Commenting on NAFTA
This week, NAWG filed joint comments with U.S. Wheat Associates in response to USTR’s Request for Comments on negotiating objectives regarding modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico (82 FR 23699).  In their comments, the wheat organizations emphasized the importance of “do no harm” during the renegotiations and discussed several areas where improvements could be made.  The U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance (USBCA) also submitted comments.  In its comments, USBCA states that “modernizing NAFTA is an excellent opportunity to improve domestic and export marketability of U.S. crops.” The alliance encourages the “completion of an agreement that provides for mutual recognition of approvals and common practice for LLP situations.” “Inclusion of these principles in a ‘modernized’ NAFTA also could contribute to their adoption in future trade accords beyond North America,” the Alliance stated. NAWG is a member of the USBCA.

Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture Hearing to Review the FY2018 USDA Budget Request
The Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies held a hearing on Tuesday, June 13th, to discuss the Administration’s FY2018 budget with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.  In his opening remarks, Secretary Perdue laid out his four primary objectives as Secretary: 1) maximize opportunities in agriculture by removing unnecessary obstacles for farmers and ranchers and creating jobs, 2) prioritize customer service with the belief that the American people have a right to expect their government to work for them, 3)  continue the efforts to keep our food supply safe, and 4) preserve the integrity of our land, air, and water.  The audience took note when Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) told Perdue that “a lot of people in the Senate and House don’t understand production agriculture, and if your voice isn’t heard loud and clear then this budget isn’t going to address the needs of rural America.  I voted for you because I think you do understand production agriculture.”

Committee members brought other issues before the Secretary including problems with the emergency compensation program brought forth by Senator Moran (R-KS), concern over trade relations with Canada and milk expressed by Senator Baldwin (D-WI), as well as hope to return to country of origin labelling talk in the future proposed by several Senators.  But the majority of the hearing was spent on the apprehension surrounding the reduced funding of rural development, crop insurance, and research.  Secretary Perdue acknowledged the serious needs of rural development, the necessity of crop insurance as a safety net and risk management tool, and the importance of MAP and FMD for both the development and maintenance of US markets. He asserted that this budget is “a challenge and opportunity to do more with less and not less with less”.  However, Perdue is quoted as saying that “research is one of those areas that we may have missed the mark [on funding]”.  Ultimately, Secretary Perdue returned the call to action on the Committee and Congress pledging to increase flexibility and to stretch the budget as far as it will go. Read Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s testimony and watch the Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies’ hearing here.

Senate Holds Hearing on Agricultural Research
Thursday morning, June 15, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing on agricultural research and the importance of continued funding.  With two panels full of experts from the United States Department of Agriculture, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, multiple research universities (both land-grant and non), and a farmer, several states and perspectives were represented.  Federal research dollars and the leverage they provide so as to receive private sector funds have been used to make progress in all areas of agriculture and, as a by-product, improve the quality of life in rural areas.  Several Senators and panelists cited example after example of the benefits of research including the scab initiative for wheat and barley, wheat blast, and the future potential to develop new varieties of wheat that can withstand freezing conditions, floods, and droughts.

The panelists stressed the need to continue valuable research; with the impending population increase to 9.7 billion by 2050 there is an ever-growing need to produce more on less land.  Additionally, Senators emphasized that the Agriculture Committees came together and reduced spending during the last Farm Bill reauthorization process, and that the cuts proposed in the Administration’s budget are unacceptable.  Watch the hearing and read all 8 panelists testimonials here.  Additionally, the House Committee on Agriculture has announced that they will also be holding a hearing on agricultural research next Thursday, June 22, at 10:00 a.m. eastern time.

NAWG Calls on Congress to Fully Fund Key Farm Loan Programs in FY 2018
This week the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), along with a broad array of other agriculture organizations, sent a letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders calling on Congress to fully fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Farm Loan programs in FY 2018.

“Farmers of most commodities are experiencing lower than normal prices. Wheat prices, in particular, have been on the decline for the past couple of years, and are expected to remain low in the foreseeable future,” stated NAWG President and Kansas grower David Schemm.

“As part of the 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress provided additional funding for FSA’s Farm Loan programs. With prices continuing to remain low, FSA loans will continue to be in high demand to support struggling farm and ranch operations,” continued Schemm.

“NAWG will continue to work with both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to ensure key agriculture programs like FSA’s Farm Loan programs are fully funded and able to function as Congress intended.”

USACC Sends Letter to White House Calling for Support of H.R. 525, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act
On June 09, 2017, The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), which represents a broad range of more than 100 agricultural commodity and farm member organizations, along with members of the agricultural private sector sent a letter to the White House urging the Administration to support H.R. 525, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act. The bill allows for private-sector financing of U.S. agricultural products exported to Cuba, allows for the promotion of U.S agricultural products in Cuba, and provides U.S. companies with the ability to develop agricultural businesses in Cuba. NAWG signed on to this letter and supports this legislation.

Secretary Perdue Names Anne Hazlett to Lead Rural Development at USDA
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has named Anne Hazlett, Chief Counsel to the Majority on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, to lead the Rural Development agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Hazlett, whose title will be Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, will oversee the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service, and the Rural Housing Service within USDA and report directly to the secretary.  The announcement is in keeping with a realignment of USDA announced by Perdue in May and represents an elevation of Rural Development, which had previously been in the portfolio of an undersecretary, who in turn reported to the deputy secretary of agriculture.

Dawn DeBerry Stump of Texas nominated as Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
On Friday, June 9th, President Trump announced his intent to nominate several people to his administration including Dawn Stump as Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.  Established in 1974, the CFTC’s mission “is to foster open, transparent, competitive, and financially sound markets” and to protect all of those involved and affected by the markets.  Stump is from Olten, Texas and grew up in the agriculture. After earning her degree in Agricultural Economics from Texas Tech University, she worked in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives including working on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.  Stump also served as executive director of the Americas Advisory Board for the Futures Industry Association and as a vice president at NYSE Euronext. She is currently the president of her own consulting firm, Stump Strategic, founded in 2016.

EPA Delays of Pesticide Applicators Rule
EPA has delayed the effective date for the final rule which addresses the revision of Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule issued in the Federal Register on January 4, 2017. The effective date of the rule amending 40 CFR part 171 that published at 82 FR 952, January 4, 2017, delayed at 82 FR 8499, January 26, 2017, and 82 FR 14324, March 20, 2017, is further delayed until May 22, 2018.

USDA: 2017 Census of Agriculture
The census is the only complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. It includes even the smallest plots of land – rural or urban – growing fruits, vegetables, or raising food animals, if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year. The information produced by the Census of Agriculture guides Congress, agribusiness, policymakers, researchers, local governments and many others on the creation and funding of agricultural programs and services – decisions that can directly impact your local operations and the future of the agriculture industry for years to come.

Please note that new farmers or existing farmers who have not participated in a prior Census of Agriculture still have time to sign up to be counted through the end of June at https://www.agcounts.usda.gov/cgi-bin/counts/. The survey takes less than a minute – and will ensure that you receive a Census form (that you can fill out in paper form or online.)  If a farmer/rancher is not on our list frame by June 30th, 2017, the producer will not have an opportunity to participate in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. For more information about the census, please visit www.agcensus.usda.gov, follow NASS on Twitter @usda_nass, or call (800) 727-9540.