NAWG wishes all of our readers a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family! The full newsletter will return next week; updates are also available at www.twitter.com/wheatworld.
Congress Out Again for Thanksgiving, Will Talk Turkey Next Week
Members of Congress have left D.C. just a week after returning from the campaign trail, this time for Thanksgiving. Both chambers are expected back next week, potentially until Dec. 21. Top of the agenda will be the sequestration cuts set to go into effect and tax cuts set to expire in January, known collectively as the “fiscal cliff.” Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama met Nov. 16 at the White House to begin talking about how to deal with this potentially calamitous set of events, with all parties expressing optimism that a compromise will be reached. Of course, the agriculture community continues to wait for word on how a farm bill will be handled in the lame duck session, with House leaders remaining mum into the holiday week.
AC21 Report Released with Insights on Biotech and Organic Crop Coexistence
The final report for the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) was submitted to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack this week. Keith Kisling, a farmer from Burlington, Okla., who represents wheat growers on AC21, emphasized during the AC21 process that farmers have been engaged locally on agriculture production issues for years and, following the report’s release, said that “the AC21 dialogue has confirmed the value of diversity in U.S. agriculture and the history of successful coexistence among different production methods.” In his formal comments on the report, Kisling urged the Secretary to consider the ramifications from the implementation of any new programs, especially the impact to trade. The full AC21 report is available online at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=AC21Reports.xml&contentidonly=true.
EPA Denies Request for RFS Waiver, Saying Economic Harm Not Demonstrated
The Environmental Protection Agency has denied a request to waive application of the existing renewable fuels standard (RFS), saying requirements for such a waiver have not been met and granting a waiver would have “little, if any, impact on ethanol demand.” In its announcement, the Agency acknowledged that a severe drought affecting much of the country has created “significant hardships,” but said its review found the RFS would not cause severe economic damage to state or national economies. NAWG was one of many agriculture groups supporting denial of the waiver request. More about the announcement is at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/notices.htm.
MF Global Report Cites Management, Regulator Communication in Bankruptcy
A House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations report released last week concluded that poor decisions by MF Global management, including former CEO Jon Corzine, led to the company’s bankruptcy, but not that any laws were broken. The report also cites a lack of communication between regulators that may have contributed to the loss of funds, saying that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) “failed to share critical information about MF Global with one another, leaving each regulator with an incomplete understanding of the company’s financial health.” They recommended that the SEC and CFTC streamline their operations or consider a merger to have complete oversight over capital markets. The full report can be found at http://financialservices.house.gov/uploadedfiles/256882456288524.pdf.
WILOT Class Talks Food and Farm Policy
Ten participants from NAWG took part last week in the Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow (WILOT) program, held in St. Louis, Mo. WILOT is sponsored by Monsanto and held annually with a new class of participants whose state wheat associations support their interests in becoming better advocates for wheat and the agriculture industry as a whole. WILOT participants this year included growers from several NAWG member states and NAWG staff, who took part in leadership and media training and toured many of the Monsanto laboratories. Presentations were also given by NAWG staff in the areas of policymaking, lobbying and communications, as well as an overview of NAWG’s structure as an organization. Much of the discussion centered on what role farmers will play in shaping the future of agriculture as the world demands more food to feed a rapidly growing population.
Annual Farm Bureau Survey Sees Thanksgiving Dinner’s Cost Up Slightly
Thanksgiving dinner increased in cost by less than 1 percent in 2012, according to an informal cost survey done by the American Farm Bureau Federation. AFBF has been doing the survey since 1986, using volunteer shoppers to gather data in 35 states about average costs for classic items including turkey, stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie. This year’s cost for a family of 10 came to $49.48, a 28-cent price increase from last year’s average of $49.20. Though the Thanksgiving survey is unscientific, the slight percentage increase in the national average cost tracks closely with AFBF’s quarterly food price surveys and the government’s Consumer Price Index for food. More on the survey is at http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=newsroom.news&year=2012&file=nr1108.html.
America’s Heartland Thanksgiving Webisode Honors Focus on Farm, Family and Food
America’s Heartland, the only national TV show about American agriculture, released a special online web episode this week to celebrate Thanksgiving. The 24-minute broadcast is available at http://www.americasheartland.org/episodes/thanksgiving2012/index.htm and includes stories about food crops Americans associate with Thanksgiving celebrations, corn and cranberries; modern buffalo herds; and a unique farm and food pantry partnership. More about the show is at www.americasheartland.org.
Extra Credit: USFRA’s Food Dialogues Webcast Available at www.fooddialogues.com
The media’s treatment of farmers and farming, antibiotics in food and the use of biotechnology to improve food crops were the hot topics tackled at the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s latest Food Dialogues, held Thursday, Nov. 15, in New York City. Webcast archives of all three panels are available at http://www.fooddialogues.com/ny-food-dialogues, and commentary about the event can be seen on Twitter by searching #FoodD at search.twitter.com.