Both chambers of Congress are out of session for the summer break, during which NAWG is providing only short news updates. Regular news stories will return next Thursday, Sept. 8.
Congress Headed Back to D.C.
Legislative work will speed up dramatically next week as Members of Congress return to Washington following a four-week August recess. Policy makers face an exhaustive – and exhausting – list of priorities to tackle: efforts by the debt super committee to cut at least $1.5 trillion from federal spending; long-pending free trade agreements that are said to be gaining steam; a needed fix to a looming pesticide permitting boondoggle; the FY2012 appropriations process, which must be resolved in some manner by the end of the month; potential surface transportation legislation; and more. NAWG staff will be following all of these issues and will provide updates on their progress in future newsletters.
Obama to Address Joint Session of Congress
President Barack Obama is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress Sept. 8 to lay out his plan to create jobs. Few details are known about the likely content of his talk, but the logistics of the matter caused a brief and very inside-the-Beltway skirmish Wednesday when Obama announced he would speak Sept. 7, and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) asked him to reschedule. The matter was resolved within a few hours, though it raised concern about the ongoing lack of comity in Washington.
Republicans Plan to Focus on Regulations
More information is becoming available about a planned Republican push against regulations they say are burdensome to Americans and the economy. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Aug. 21 outlining plans to take up a legislative agenda on taxes and regulations, particularly having to do with transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. This week, President Barack Obama responded to a House request for a list of regulations that could cost $1 billion or more to implement, listing seven such instances his Administration is considering. NAWG continues to work to resolve a number of regulatory proposals that could affect farmers and will closely follow the coming debate.
Revived Biotechnology Advisory Group Meets
USDA’s newly reconstituted Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, known as AC21, held its first meeting this week to begin to address coexistence issues between biotech, conventional and organic cropping systems. According to USDA, the group was first formed in 2003 to look at “the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and USDA” and to provide guidance to the Secretary of Agriculture. The current Secretary, Tom Vilsack, revived the group earlier this year as USDA addressed legal actions regarding its reviews of biotech sugar beets and biotech alfalfa products.
Oklahoma wheat farmer Keith Kisling was selected as a member of AC21 and attended this week’s meeting. Kisling has served the wheat industry previously though the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, U.S. Wheat Associates and the NAWG and U.S. Wheat Joint Biotechnology Committee. Staff from NAWG and U.S. Wheat also attended this week’s sessions.
Reports Show Farm Income, Exports Up Despite Disasters, Costs
USDA issued reports this week showing strong net farm income and ag exports despite disasters around the country and dramatically increasing farm expenses. Based on a new farm income report, net cash income and net farm income are record in nominal terms and, adjusting for inflation, are at their highest levels since the early 1970s. Total farm debt declined nearly 2 percent. A new U.S. ag exports forecast for the 2011 fiscal year is $137 billion, $22 billion higher than the previous record set in 2008 and $28 billion above 2010. Agriculture remains one of just a few sectors of the U.S. economy achieving a trade surplus, projected at a record $42.5 billion in FY2011 and $32 billion in FY2012. Still, feed costs are up 20 percent and fuel and fertilizer expenses are up 24 percent since 2010. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement that this week’s numbers “[demonstrate] again that the men and women who own and operate America’s farms and ranches are some of the most resilient in the world.”
Wheat CAP to Receive Prestigious USDA Award
The Wheat Coordinated Agricultural Project, known as the Wheat CAP, will be honored as a recipient of USDA’s Secretary’s Honor Award at a ceremony later this month. The award is the most prestigious given by the Department for contributions to its mission and is being given to the wheat project, along with similar efforts in barley, potatoes and tomatoes, for “helping America promote sustainable agricultural production and biotechnology exports as America works to increase food security”. Wheat CAP is a multi-state, multi-institutional project funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), led by University of California-Davis scientist Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky and incorporating work at 25 public wheat-breeding programs.
New Season of America’s Heartland Begins on PBS
Public television stations around the country will begin airing the seventh season of America’s Heartland after Labor Day. Heartland is the only national program dedicated to educating consumers about the origins of their food, fuel and fiber. The show is aired on approximately 230 PBS stations and RFD-TV, reaching about one million viewers per episode. NAWG provides in-kind production support for the show and holds a seat on the program’s advisory committee. To find when Heartland is airing locally on PBS, visit www.americasheartland.org/watch_heartland/index.htm.
NAWG Newsletter Moving to Thursday
Beginning next week, NAWG’s newsletter, the Report from Washington, will be published on Thursdays, versus Fridays. The newsletter aims to provide NAWG grower-leaders and state staff information about key D.C. events and their effects on the wheat industry, while also serving as a resource for members of the media, industry partners and stakeholders on Capitol Hill. The publication schedule change is part of an ongoing effort by NAWG staff to evaluate and update the Association’s outreach efforts.