We hope you find this quick update useful. The full Report from Washington and the Weekly Wheat Digest will return on Sept. 13, at the conclusion of Congress’ August recess.
National Ag Groups Say “Farm Bill Now” in Unison
NAWG and 38 other national agricultural organizations issued a joint statement Wednesday calling on Congress to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current farm programs expire at the end of September. Groups participating in the effort include commodity crop and general farm organizations, livestock, dairy, specialty crops and farm cooperatives and financial groups. The coalition also unveiled a new website at www.farmbillnow.com and announced two planned media events, in Iowa on Aug. 28 and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12. More details are at http://www.wheatworld.org/news-events/2012/08/farm-bill-now-coalition-unites-nations-farm-groups/.
Calling … Everyone! Send Your Message To Congress Now!
Do you want a #farmbillnow? If you are passionate about the safety, security and availability of our nation’s food supply, or even if you just like to eat a few times a day, the answer should be yes. Share your views with Members of Congress at www.farmbillnow.com through social media or by signing on to a petition supporting the coalition statement calling for quick approval of new farm and food legislation. Action starts by putting in your address (so the system can find the right legislators!) at the www.farmbillnow.com home page.
Russia Enters WTO; U.S. PNTR Still Pending
Russia officially joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week, ending the longest negotiations in the history of the trade body, having first submitted an application for membership in 1993. Despite this achievement, the United States has yet to grant the country permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status, which the WTO mandates all countries do for other members. Russia has been granted normal trading relations status by the U.S. on an annual basis since the early 1990s, but this designation must be made permanent for the U.S. to fully enjoy the benefits of Russia’s WTO membership. Committees in both the House and Senate have approved measures to grant PNTR to Russia and Moldova but action has yet to happen in either full chamber.
Russia’s WTO accession will provide the U.S. and other WTO members improved trade access to that market and stronger mechanisms to enforce the country’s commitments to domestic supports, export subsidies and state trading enterprise disciplines. The Joint International Trade Policy Committee between NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates, which recommends trade policy to both wheat organizations’ boards of directors, has approved a resolution supporting giving Russia PNTR status.
CBO Report Predicts Recession If U.S. Falls of “Fiscal Cliff”
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned this week that the U.S. economy could return to a recession if Congress does not take action to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” of expiring tax cuts and planned spending reductions from sequestration. The analysis indicated that the deficit would shrink nearly $500 billion in one year because of increased collections and reduced spending by the federal government. However, the overall economy would also contract, by 0.5 percent in a year, and the unemployment rate would rise to 9 percent from the current rate of 8.2 percent. Planned tax increases and spending cuts are likely to be among the most hotly debated topics between the November elections and the end of the Congressional year, with high stakes consequences regardless of the political outcome.
EPA Asks for Comments Following RFS Waiver Requests
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened a 30-day comment period on the likely effects of modifying the existing renewable fuels standard (RFS). The comment period was triggered by requests from four governors for an RFS waiver reducing the amount of renewable fuels needing to be produced under the law. The governors and legislators who have made similar calls have said they are concerned about the ongoing drought’s effects on feedstocks for livestock. NAWG supports the existing RFS and similar policies to expand the use of conventional ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, the latter of which could be produced in some regions using wheat straw and biomass. More on the comment period is at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/documents/2012-rfs-waiver-request-comment.pdf.
USFRA Seeks Farmers and Ranchers Willing to Speak Out About Their Work
The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is looking for farmers and ranchers willing to speak out on behalf of their professions. The coalition, of which NAWG is a part, is offering webinar-based Conversation Leader training on Aug. 27 and 28 and Sept. 10 and 11. Farmers interested in participating can get registration information by contacting the NAWG office at wheatworld (at) wheatworld.org or USFRA staff Abby Rinne at rinne (at) usfraonline.org. The Alliance is also undertaking a nationwide search for farmers and ranchers who can serve in larger public roles, working with national media and on other outreach projects. Applications for that opportunity are due on Sept. 8; much more information is available at http://www.fooddialogues.com/faces-of-farming-and-ranching.
Wheat Foods Council “Back to Breakfast” Toolkit Available Online
The Wheat Foods Council is offering grocery store dietitians and other nutrition professionals a new Back to Breakfast tool kit to help them promote breakfast consumption during National Breakfast Month in September. More than 90 percent of Americans know they should be eating breakfast, but the morning time crunch means only 44 percent do so. The Back to Breakfast toolkit includes breakfast marketing tools, as well as meal ideas and recipes. The full toolkit is at http://wheatfoods.org/node/798#node-798.
Silver Lining: Crop Insurers Start Online Drought Photo Contest
National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) is holding a drought-year photo contest, seeking snapshots of the worst of the worst Mother Nature has dealt farm families this year. NCIS will take photo submissions online through midnight on Friday, Sept. 21. Website visitors will be able to vote on the best/worst photo from Sept. 22 until Nov. 21. The “winners” will be awarded prizes including a new iPad. Details are at the group’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/cropinsuranceinamerica.