After a historic New Year’s session and swearing in the 113th Congress, Members were back in their districts this week. The House is slated to return to Washington, D.C., on Monday, Jan. 14, with the Senate back for Inauguration Day on Jan. 21. We hope you find this quick update helpful in the meantime; remember, updates are always available at www.facebook.com/wheatworld and www.twitter.com/wheatworld.
House Agriculture Committee Rosters Released; Senate Ag Still to be Finalized
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) released their parties’ rosters for the Committee late last week, confirming the panel’s membership for the 113th Congress. The new Member lists are available at http://agriculture.house.gov/press-release/lucas-announces-gop-roster-agriculture-committee and http://democrats.agriculture.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=1151, respectively. The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee is expected to ratify its membership lists the week of Jan. 21, when that chamber returns to session. It is already known that Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) will replace Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) as Senate Ag Ranking Member.
Paper Refuting Wheat Health, Science Myths Circulates Online
A paper correcting misinformation about wheat research continued circulating around the Internet this week. “Wheat Improvement: The Truth Unveiled,” was compiled by the National Wheat Improvement Committee and published online at http://www.thebestgrains.com/wheat-improvement-the-truth-unveiled. It outlines the basics of how new wheat varieties are bred and confronts myths being perpetrated in the media by Dr. William Davis, the author of Wheat Belly. The paper has been posted and reposted on grain groups’ and farmers’ Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and websites. On Wednesday, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance posted the paper to its Facebook page, garnering more than 640 likes, 100 shares and 65 comments at press time. Information in the paper was developed with the historic and scientific input of peer-reviewed research and U.S. and international wheat scientists, most of whom participate in NWIC, which brings together wheat scientists from across the country.
USDA Designates 597 Counties as Natural Disasters Due to Drought
USDA announced Wednesday Secretary Tom Vilsack has designated 597 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat, making all qualified farm operators in those areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. The newly-designated counties have been in at least a “severe drought” for eight consecutive weeks based on U.S. Drought Monitor measurements. In 2012, USDA designated 2,245 counties in 39 states – 71 percent of the total U.S. – as disaster areas due to drought. USDA officials have attempted to help farmers, ranchers and businesses impacted by the ongoing drought through the programs they administer and have cited the drought as a reason for Congress to complete a new, long-term farm bill. More information from USDA about the drought is at www.usda.gov/drought.
Commodity Classic Early Registration Deadline on Jan. 20
The early registration deadline for Commodity Classic is Jan. 20. Growers and other attendees registering by that date can save up to $50 on their attendance fees for the convention, which is set for Feb. 28 to March 2 in Kissimmee, Fla. The 2013 Classic will again bring together wheat, corn, soybean and sorghum farmers for a wide variety of educational sessions, networking opportunities and a trade show with more than 1,000 booths displaying the newest technology, equipment, ideas and innovations in agriculture. Classic is NAWG’s annual meeting, and all NAWG policy committees will also meet in conjunction with the events. Details about attending Classic are online at www.commodityclassic.com. More about NAWG’s meetings at Classic is at http://www.wheatworld.org/meetings-events/commodity-classic/.
Grain Groups Celebrate Folic Acid Fortification to Prevent Birth Defects
Grain farmers and grain groups are celebrating National Birth Defects Prevention Month and the 15th anniversary of grain millers fortifying grains with folic acid to help prevent neural tube birth defects in the United States. Enriched grains like white bread, tortillas, cereal and pasta are the top source of folic acid in the diets of most Americans. Since the FDA required fortification of enriched grains with folic acid in 1998, the number of babies born in the U.S. with neural-tube birth defects has declined by approximately one-third. This success led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to recently name folic acid fortification of enriched grains as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the first decade of the 21st century. More about folic acid enrichment is available from the Grain Foods Foundation at http://www.gowiththegrain.org/nutrition/enriched-grains.php. More about this month’s educational activities is at http://www.nbdpn.org/bdpm2013.php.
USDA Seeks Young Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee Nominations
USDA is seeking nominations for its Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, due to the Department by Jan. 16. This Committee advises the Secretary of Agriculture on matters broadly affecting new farmers and ranchers and puts forward recommendations for activities that would help that population. Organizations or individuals can nominate potential members. Nomination packages should include a nomination form along with a cover letter or resume that documents the nominee’s background and experience. Nomination forms are available online at http://www.ocio.usda.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2012/AD-755_Master_2012_508%20Ver.pdf.
Extra Credit: Challenge Yourself to Engage in Consumer Dialogues in 2013
As Americans make New Year’s resolutions for 2013, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is encouraging farmers and ranchers to place engaging consumer audiences about today’s agriculture at the top of their lists. USFRA research has found that 27 percent of Americans admit they often are confused about the food they are purchasing. Three in five Americans would like to know more about how food is grown and raised, but don’t feel they have the time or money to make it a priority. The coalition, of which NAWG is a member, suggests learning more about food and ag hot topics in the media (sign up at www.fooddialogues.com/user/register for alerts); using language about food that consumers understand; seeking training about starting conversations; and responding to misinformation. Many more tools to help individuals become involved – including research about consumer perceptions and information about making complicated ag topics easier to understand – are at www.fooddialogues.com.