The NAWG staff and officer team are headed to Chicago for business meetings over the weekend. The Washington, D.C., office will be closed Thursday, March 29, and Friday, March 30, with staff available periodically by e-mail and cell phones. In the meantime, here’s a quick update on actions and activities this week.
Wheat Farmers, Researchers, Users Hit the Hill To Talk Research Funding
A group of 35 wheat researchers, farmers, millers and bakers were in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday for the annual wheat industry research fly-in sponsored by NAWG, the National Wheat Improvement Committee, the North American Millers’ Association and the American Bakers Association. The event focused on the importance of maintaining a strong, public research system even in tough budget times. Ag research accounts for just 1.6 percent of all federal research spending, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Even if modest increases proposed in FY2013 by the Obama Administration for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are approved, it’s total allocation will be down 12 percent since FY2010. More on wheat research is at www.wheatworld.org/research.
Congress Passes Short-Term Extension of Surface Transport Law
Congress approved on Thursday a temporary extension of existing surface transportation law, which was set to expire on Saturday. The law in question affects construction projects around the country and authorizes the federal gas tax that pays for them. House Republicans have struggled to get the votes necessary for a long-term reauthorization or even a short-term extension, with the House finally passing a three-month measure by 266 to 158 on Thursday. The Senate passed their version a short time later. House Democrats prefer to consider a Senate-approved version of the bill, which would extend transportation programs for two years at a cost of $109 billion.
Gaede Talks H.R. 872 At CropWorld North America Conference
NAWG Director of Government Affairs for Environmental Policy Mark Gaede participated this week in a panel discussion on regulatory challenges facing the crop protection industry, held as part of the CropWorld 2012 conference in North Carolina. Gaede focused on the need for Congressional clarification of requirements under the Clean Water Act for crop protection product applications. H.R. 872, which was approved by the House but has stalled in the Senate, would achieve this goal; NAWG and other ag groups are pushing for its consideration this year.
Field to Market Coalition Focuses on Publicizing Fieldprint Calculator 2.0
Discussions at Field to Market business meetings held Tuesday and Wednesday in North Carolina focused on planning for the coming year and promotional efforts for the group’s revised and updated Fieldprint Calculator, which was launched in January. The coalition is also undertaking a number of pilot projects with farmers, processors and grain handlers that are expected to provide important data to the value chain. Wheat, corn, soybean and cotton farmers attended this week’s meetings, along with representatives of various agribusiness companies and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NAWG Second Vice President Paul Penner, a farmer from Hillsboro, Kan., represented the Association and wheat growers.
New Questions About Corzine in MF Global Investigation
Investigators are now focusing on if former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine knew a $175 million transfer made in the final days before the company’s bankruptcy was funded with customer money. An e-mail uncovered during the Congressional investigation and reported on in The New York Times is the latest clue in the search for up to $1.6 billon of customer funds that went missing from the company, much of it from farmers and grain handlers. At a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing this week, three executives said they were cooperating with the government’s investigations into the bankruptcy, while a fourth declined to answer questions on the advice of counsel.
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) opposing bonuses that could be distributed to MF Global executives by the bankruptcy trustee. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced it would provide penalty relief to farmers who do not have all the tax information they need from the company. More on that announcement is at http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=255933,00.html.
Dow Adds Three Wheat Specialists to Washington State Staff
Dow AgroSciences announced last week it is adding two wheat breeders and a wheat field biologist to its cereals breeding station in Pullman, Wash. The company said the Pullman team will focus on the development of germplasm in soft white winter and spring wheat varieties adapted for the Pacific Northwest region. They will also work to support Dow wheat initiatives in North America and Australia. More about private investments in wheat research, which have increased markedly in recent years, is at http://www.wheatworld.org/research/wheat-research-community/private-investors/.
NAWG Finishes Up Meetings Before Spring Fieldwork Begins
NAWG staff and leaders are holding a final round of business meetings before spring fieldwork begins in earnest. This week, NAWG’s Budget Committee met in Washington, just prior to the wheat industry research fly-in. NAWG Board members are meeting in Chicago Thursday and Friday to examine the Association’s strategic plan, followed by training sessions for NAWG state executives, sponsored by Syngenta. Next week, the new Board of Directors for the National Wheat Foundation, which was seated in March, will hold its second meeting.
New Book From Longtime Wheat Friend “Demystifies” Farming
A new book penned by longtime wheat industry friend Maurice Hladik is now available through bookstores and online at Amazon.com. The title, Demystifying Food from Farm to Fork, was published in February. It explains Hladik’s point of view on the realities of farming today, tackling issues including environmental impact, food safety, biotechnology and climate change. Hladik grew up on a farm in western Canada, studied agricultural economics in college and served as Canada’s agricultural attaché in New Zealand and Germany. He served on the NAWG Foundation’s Development Committee while working for cellulosic ethanol company Iogen.