Both chambers of Congress began this week a two-week spring recess for Passover and Easter. As has become our practice during recess weeks, here’s a short report on happenings in the worlds of wheat policy and agriculture.
The complete Report will return on Friday, May 6.
Welcome Break in U.S.-Panama FTA Talks
U.S. Wheat Associates and National Association of Wheat Growers issued a joint statement this week applauding Ambassador Kirk’s announcement that the Obama Administration is ready to take the next steps toward ratification of the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA), following Panama’s ratification of the U.S.-Panama Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA).
The agreement, along with the pending free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea, will increase trade opportunities, create jobs in the United States and allow U.S. wheat growers to compete on equal terms in these markets. NAWG encourages continued efforts from the Administration as they round the final turns for all three FTA’s. Timing of introduction to Congress remains uncertain. More information about the wheat industry benefits from these FTA’s can be found here: http://www.wheatworld.org/trade
Effectiveness of MAP/FMD Testimony Submitted
This week USW and NAWG submitted testimony for the record of a House Agriculture Committee subcommittee hearing on the effectiveness of USDA’s export promotion programs. Market development programs are essential for agricultural trade. Wheat was one of the first commodities to utilize the FMD program after its creation in the 1950s. Exports are an important component of producer profitability. Increased wheat exports to Nigeria are a remarkable example of how federal and grower investment in export promotion programs has resulted in loyalty from Nigerian millers. The United States maintains an 80 percent market share, despite competition from Canada and the Black Sea region. More information on the hearing, including a video of the hearing and testimony from witnesses, can be found at the Agriculture Committee’s website here: http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1349.
Vilsack & Jackson Hear Regulations Need to Reflect Reality
This week the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson heard from growers about the impediments to the nation’s economy and job creation by EPA regulations. The House committee held a field hearing in Salinas, California, and Vilsack and Jackson visited farms in Iowa. These leaders clearly heard that farmers recognize that rules and regulations must reflect reality on the farm and that incentive based conservation programs play a key role in stewarding our nation’s natural resources. Jackson recognized farmer concerns on dust regulations and reported “they want to make sure we’re not regulating dust when we should be regulating soot.”
Pesticides and Endangered Species Hearing
House Agriculture and House Natural Resources Committee’s will jointly convene on Tuesday, May 3, 2011, to discuss the intersection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in the unworkable ESA consultation process. A core group of the Pesticide Policy Coalition, of which NAWG is an active member, is meeting with dozens of individual Member offices to alert them about underlying problems in the consultation process. Lawsuits have been brought against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failure to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) over the potential effect of six registered pesticides on Pacific salmon species in the states of California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. EPA has since been in consultation with NMFS for nearly ten years but the process has produced few tangible results save for three vague and unfounded draft biological opinions purporting to show the impact of pesticides on the fish in question. A similar, more recently filed lawsuit has named hundreds of registered pesticides and endangered species residing in nearly every county in the country.
Agriculture Research Service Briefing
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers will host a briefing on the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) and how its work is helping maintain a safe, affordable food supply and providing valuable tools for our nation’s farmers. The briefing will take place on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, at 3:00 pm in 2218 Rayburn House Office Building. Mike Miller a Washington State Grain Commissioner from Ritzville, Washington, and Dana Herron, former Chairman of the Washington State Grain Commission from Connell, Washington, will be among the presenters.
Drought Conditions Continue in HRW Country
Much of the southern Great Plains wheat growing area is suffering from very dry conditions that are likely to continue as reported in the latest outlook issued by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC). In Texas wildfires continue to rage, to date affecting more than a million acres. Low soil moisture and windy conditions extend north into Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado with several deadly tornadoes reported last week. Nebraska and parts of Kansas and Colorado did receive much needed moisture that will ease conditions. More information on the drought assessment from the CPC is available here: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/drought_assessment.shtml
Study Touts Positive Benefits of Biotechnology
PG Economics released an annual report on the state of global biotechnology that states positive economic and environmental benefits continue to be seen, contributing to global food production and security. PG Economics Limited is a specialist provider of advisory and consultancy services to agriculture and other natural resource-based industries and is based in Dorchester, United Kingdom. The study is available here: http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/index.php