Here’s a quick update on ag policy happenings this week. The most up-to-date information from NAWG is always available online at www.twitter.com/wheatworld.
CME Group to Acquire Kansas City Board of Trade
CME Group will acquire the Kansas City Board of Trade (KCBT) in a $126 million deal, the companies announced this week. CME reportedly outbid other competitors for the 156-year-old KCBT, which is the leading futures market for hard red winter (HRW) wheat. CME said in a press release it will continue to maintain a committee of KCBT market participants to advise on HRW contract terms and conditions for at least three years. CME will also maintain the KCBT trading floor for at least six months. The deal, which was unanimously approved by the KCBT board of directors, is expected to close later this year. More from CME is at http://cmegroup.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=3331.
Legality of BNSF’s Acquisition by Berkshire Called Into Question
The legality of Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition of BNSF Railway has been called into question following the discovery that Berkshire owned short-line railroads in Oregon and Iowa before the transaction. Ownership of these assets means Berkshire needed approval by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) before it purchased BNSF in 2010, which it did not receive. BNSF has acknowledged that the acquisition should have been subject to the STB’s authority and has said the company will sell both railroads by the end of year and provide progress reports to the STB every 30 days. BNSF believes legislators’ calls for regulatory action on the issue are an “unnecessary overreach and a waste of taxpayer dollars.” A separate concern for rail customers is the $8 billion acquisition premium paid by Berkshire when it bought the railroad and whether or not BNSF will raise rates to compensate for that premium. The STB has issued a notice requesting public comments on the BNSF acquisition by Nov. 8.
USDA’s NRCS Highlights Initiative to Focus on Soil Health
USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced the start of a concerted effort to highlight the benefits of improving and maintaining soil quality, which is particularly timely in light of the severe drought plaguing many U.S. farming regions. NRCS Chief Dave White said the effort will aim to “provide farmers the very best information available to meet their unique needs and help their business thrive.” NAWG and several other production agriculture and conservation groups recently wrote White in support of this initiative, telling him that soil health is part of a systems approach that benefits landscape and wildlife, reduces runoff and saves farmers money. The groups also pointed to the importance of farm bill conservation programs to aid this effort, and thus the urgent need to reauthorize new legislation to replace the expired 2008 Farm Bill. More from NRCS on soils health is at http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/. The full stakeholder letter is at www.wheatworld.org/sustainability.
FSA Payments $1.2 Billion Less Than Expected in FY2012
Outlays from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs were $1.2 billion lower than expected in FY2012, the Treasury Department and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reported late last week. The figure came as part of a review of overall income and spending by the federal government during its 2012 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. The difference in FSA outlays was attributed to “lower commodity marketing loan-making and higher loan repayments than anticipated, due to higher-than-estimated crop prices.” FSA also paid out less for 2010 disaster assistance than anticipated. The overall federal budget’s deficit in FY2012 was $1.089 trillion, $207 billion less than FY2011. Additional details on the report are at http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1734.aspx.
U.S.-Canada Grain Trade Site Has New FAQs Available
A website offering information for farmers who are considering trading wheat across the U.S.-Canadian border has updated FAQs now available. The site, www.canada-usgrainandseedtrade.info, was launched in August by U.S. and Canadian non-profit and trade associations following the Aug. 1 elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on wheat sales. That change opened up cross-border trading market for wheat, durum and barley. The FAQs are designed to illustrate how the two markets may be different but can work together in a mutually beneficial relationship. Visitors to the site can also submit additional questions or comments.
National Wheat Foundation Board Meets in Fort Worth
The National Wheat Foundation’s Board of Directors met Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas. The day-long meeting focused on refining the organization’s messages for forthcoming fundraising and outreach campaigns as well as resource allocation to help facilitate the Foundation’s activities. NWF appreciates the hospitality of its host for the meeting, BNSF Railway. More about the Foundation is at www.wheatfoundation.org.
WOLF Training Programs Applications Due Nov. 9
Applicants for the Wheat Organization Leaders of the Future (WOLF) leadership training program should plan to submit their materials by Nov. 9. The program is put on annually by the National Wheat Foundation, which is managed by the NAWG staff, with supporting sponsorship from Bayer CropScience. The program focuses on the responsibilities of Board members, governance, media relations and lobbying, and it is primarily intended to provide advanced leadership training for state wheat grower leaders who will soon become part of the NAWG Board of Directors. The 2013 WOLF program will be held in association with the Wheat Industry Winter Conference in Washington, D.C., in January. Application information is at http://www.wheatfoundation.org/projects-programs/leadership-training/.
Extra Credit: Best Food Facts Blog on “Is Wheat A ‘Perfect Chronic Poison’”?
This week, NAWG recommends readers take a look at the Best Food Facts blog’s take on claims circulating in the media that wheat is “a perfect chronic poison.” In the post, university experts in human nutrition and plant science weigh in to set the record straight and put the genetic history of wheat in a context that is easy for a lay person to understand. The post is online at http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/food-for-thought/wheatperfectchronicpoison.