Congress remains out of session for spring recess. Here’s a quick update of what has happened this week on Capitol Hill and in the world of wheat growers.
Congress Set to Return to D.C. on Monday
Congress’ two-week recess for the Easter and Passover holidays is set to conclude over the weekend, with Members returning to Washington on Monday. NAWG continues to encourage wheat farmers to meet with their Members of Congress over the break to discuss priorities, including the farm bill reauthorization process. Congress is next scheduled to go on recess the week of April 30.
NAWG/IGPA Webinar Reviews Farm Bill Paths, Priorities
NAWG and the Idaho Grain Producers Association held a webinar Monday to review the fiscal and political climates surrounding the 2012 Farm Bill. NAWG Chief Executive Dana Peterson discussed the current situation in Washington as well as NAWG’s farm policy priorities. The webinar was attended by farmers and NAWG members from around the country. NAWG thanks IGPA, the Idaho Wheat Commission and the University of Idaho for their cooperation in putting on the event. An archive of the webinar is available through NAWG’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/wheatworld.
House Ag Committee Field Hearings Continue in Kansas
The House Agriculture Committee will continue its series of farm bill field hearings next week in Dodge City, Kan. The Committee’s most recent hearing was March 30 in Arkansas, where farmers from six states testified on the importance of direct payments to themselves and the economy. After the hearing, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) voiced his opinion that he “would not say the direct payment is dead, per se, but it’s certainly going to be challenging to keep it in place.” More information and testimony from the field hearings can be found at http://agriculture.house.gov/singlepages.aspx?NewsID=1227&LSBID=1271.
Coalition Urges Reconsideration of Proposed Oceans Regulation
NAWG and 80 other agriculture, natural resource and business groups wrote the head of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, urging him to cut off funding for an ocean-based regulatory plan that is being developed by the Counsel for Environmental Quality. The policy is based on an executive order and would, in effect, zone portions of the oceans for different purposes. The groups writing this week told Congressional leadership that uncertainty surrounds the proposals and that the “risk of unintended economic and societal consequences remains high.” Agriculture and other groups are concerned that, in addition to the ramifications for work in and near the oceans, such a policy could also lead to regulation of activities along tributaries that lead into the ocean. The full letter is available at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/enviro-coalition-letter-ocean-policy-20120412.pdf.
As April 17 Approaches, Farm Groups Urge Estate Tax Reform
NAWG joined a coalition writing this week to Members of Congress to urge estate tax relief for farmers. The letter was coordinated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and is being prepared for delivery ahead of 2012 tax day, which is Monday. The letter will voice support for estate tax repeal legislation pending in both the House and Senate. Ag groups will continue to work on the tax issue into the summer and fall as discussion begins about extending expiring tax cuts.
Department of Labor Receives Thousands of Comments Regarding Child Labor Laws
A spokesperson for the Department of Labor it has received around 10,000 public comments regarding a child labor law proposal that would make it difficult for farmers to hire minors for work, according to the Southeastern Farm Press. The agriculture industry has been critical of this law, saying farmers depend on teaching children to farm at an early age so they can both help with daily chores and be prepared to take over family farms as adults. Critics of the labor proposal also point to a new study published by the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) showing a downturn in farm accidents without the DOL changes. More from NASS on youth injuries on the farm over time is at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1481.
Text Alerts and Risk Assessment Tool Available on Scab Conditions
As the wheat production season reaches critical stages throughout the country, the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative is again offering two early alert systems for growers in areas at risk for Fusarium head blight, or scab. At http://www.wheatscab.psu.edu/riskTool_2012.html, USWBSI offers a risk assessment tool that allows users to select for an assessment date, time period, region and wheat class, and is supplemented by commentaries from relevant state university plant disease specialists on weather and environmental conditions and the presence of scab or lack thereof. Farmers can also sign up for text or e-mail alerts about scab conditions at http://scabusa.org/fhb_alert.php. These periodic messages are designed to supplement the more in-depth data available online, with frequency and timing of alerts depending upon an area’s level of risk for scab. USWBSI’s primary online home is at http://scabusa.org.
WASDE Shows Lower Ending Stocks, Higher Feed Use
U.S. Wheat Associates reports that the latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), released Tuesday, showed 2011/2012 U.S. wheat ending stocks projected 32 million bushels lower with higher projected feed and residual use. The report projected that exports would be unchanged with a 15 million bushel increase in soft red winter (SRW) offsetting a reduction for hard red winter (HRW), reflecting the increased competiveness of SRW into Europe, Egypt and Mexico. The WASDE showed global wheat supplies lowered slightly and global wheat imports projected 1.6 million tons higher. Global wheat consumption estimates were raised 2.8 million tons on higher expected feed and residual usage. More from U.S. Wheat on the report and on crop conditions will be available in the next edition of Wheat Letter, available online at http://www.uswheat.org/newsEvents/wheatLetter upon publication.