Greetings from Houston, where wheat growers from around the country are gathered this weekend! Here’s a quick update on policy and other ag happenings this week. Follow along with NAWG in real time at www.twitter.com/wheatworld and www.facebook.com/wheatworld.
Fall Wheat Conference Underway in Houston
Grower-leaders and staff from NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates are gathered in Houston until Saturday for the 2012 Fall Wheat Conference. The conference encompasses both organizations’ fall committee and Board meetings, as well as meetings of NAWG/USW joint committees and a meeting of both Boards together. Consequences of the 2008 Farm Bill’s expiration and potential paths forward for new farm policy are topics dominating the meetings’ discussions. A recap of major actions and audio reports on NAWG committee meetings will be available in next week’s quick update. Those who aren’t attending the Conference can get updates in real time by following @wheatworld (NAWG) and @uswheatassoc (USW) on Twitter or searching for the hashtag #fallwheat12.
Panama FTA to Be Entered Into Force on Oct. 31
The long-pending Panama-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) will be entered into force next week, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced Monday. Nearly half of U.S. agricultural products, including wheat, will be able to enter the country duty-free when the agreement is officially in effect, with remaining tariffs phased out over 15 years. The agreement is one of three such pacts negotiated and signed in 2006 and 2007, then stalled for political reasons until they were signed by President Barack Obama last October. The two other agreements, with Colombia and South Korea, have already been activated. NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates strongly supported the approval of the Panama FTA. More about the agreement is at http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/panama-tpa.
Arcadia, CIMMYT and USAID Partner-Up on Heat Tolerant Wheat Research
Arcadia Biosciences, international wheat research organization CIMMYT and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced late last week they would work together to develop heat-tolerant wheat varieties using classical breeding and modern molecular biology tools. Under the terms of the agreement, CIMMYT will receive non-exclusive rights to the new technology in developing countries while the company will retain exclusive commercial rights in the developed world. Arcadia will lead the program under a $3.8 million grant from USAID. The organizations said in the announcement that heat-tolerant wheat can play a significant role in maintaining yields and meeting demand in both the developed and developing world. More on the new partnership is at http://www.arcadiabio.com/news/press-release/arcadia-biosciences-usaid-and-cimmyt-develop-heat-tolerant-wheat.
Ukraine Confirms It Will Ban Wheat Exports Following Drought
The Ukrainian government confirmed this week the country will ban grain exports beginning Nov. 15 to preserve domestic supplies following a year plagued by weather problems. The announcement was not unexpected, however it did have a slight initial effect on the global wheat markets. The United States has also suffered from a drought this year but maintains adequate supplies of wheat for domestic consumption and export. The U.S. Constitution prohibits similar export bans. More from U.S. Wheat Associates on the reliability of U.S. wheat exports is at http://www.uswheat.org/tradepolicy/reliability.
Drought Conditions Have An Upside: Minimal Scab Appearance
Abnormally dry conditions in much of the United States this year resulted in disappointing yields for many farmers, but had at least one upside: minimal problems with Fusarium head blight, also known as scab, and vomitoxin (DON), the mycotoxin it creates. Very few areas had significant issues with the disease in 2012, scientists are reporting. The most recent issue of the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative’s (USWBSI’s) electronic newsletter includes a detailed recap of the season in scab for each grain-growing region. It is available in full at http://www.scabusa.org/pdfs/fus-focus_10-2012_newsletter.pdf.
Sen. George McGovern Remembered for Hunger Relief Advocacy
The agriculture community remembered former Senator and Ambassador George McGovern this week as one of the country’s great anti-hunger advocates. McGovern, who was perhaps best known for being a presidential candidate in 1972, passed away Sunday at the age of 90. According to the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA), McGovern co-authored the school lunch program and worked to spread such programs to countries all over the world. He was the head of the U.S. Food for Peace program, was an ambassador to the United Nations for food programs and helped to formulate what evolved into the UN’s World Food Programme. He was also a co-author of the food aid program named for him and former Sen. Bob Dole, who eulogized him in a Washington Post opinion piece over the weekend. For their work, Dole and McGovern were awarded the World Food Prize in 2008. NAMA’s full statement on McGovern’s work is at http://www.namamillers.org/PR_McGovern_10_22_12.html.
Applications for Minore Scholarship for Ag Students Due Dec. 1
The National Wheat Foundation is accepting applications for the Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship until Dec. 1. The scholarship is available to undergraduate freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are pursuing an agriculture-related degree and have family or other connections to the wheat industry. The scholarship program will give two $1,500 and two $1,000 awards for the 2013-2014 academic year. The scholarship program, generously funded by BASF, honors Jerry Minore, who was a longtime friend of the wheat industry and advocate for wheat farmers during his time with the company. More information about the application process is at http://www.wheatfoundation.org/projects-programs/education/.
Extra Credit: New Online Info Hub, FoodSource
This week, NAWG recommends readers explore FoodSource, a new online information hub unveiled this week by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). The resource is designed to be a one-stop shop for answers to consumer questions about how food is grown and raised. The site delves into topics including biotech seeds, food prices, food safety and pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. FoodSource is available at www.fooddialogues.com/foodsource.