Farm Groups Unite to Oppose Senate Sequester Plan
NAWG joined 13 other agricultural groups this week to share concerns about a Senate proposal to avoid planned sequestration cuts in part by taking $27.5 billion from Title I of the farm bill baseline. NAWG believes that if federal agriculture programs are subject to budget cuts in order to achieve deficit reduction, then the same percentage of cuts should apply to all federal government programs.
Agriculture has showed willingness over the past two years to give its fare share to deficit reduction. Last year, both the Senate and House introduced bills to provide real savings and reforms, with the Senate bill saving $23 billion and the House bill saving $35 billion over 10 years. Moving forward, NAWG would like to the see a process where the two Agriculture Committees work together to make needed cuts and reforms to any agriculture policy.
To read the full letter, please visit http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/farmbill-seqestration-letter-to-senate-20130219.pdf.
Supreme Court Hears Arguments in the Monsanto vs. Bowman Patent Case
The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case between Monsanto and farmer Vernon Bowman. Bowman, a 75-year-old from Indiana, bought soybeans from a local grain elevator and used them as seed, even though it appears he knew they carried a Roundup Ready trait licensed by Monsanto. Bowman’s attorney argued that he didn’t violate Monsanto’s patent when he bought the seeds with the expectation that they would carry the Roundup Ready trait, and Monsanto did not have the right to carry the patent two or three generations after the seed was originally planted.
Although Monsanto won the case in district court and on appeal, the Supreme Court decided to hear it because as a first case involving a self-replicating technology. In oral arguments, several justices seemed sympathetic towards Monsanto’s claims, with Chief Justice John Roberts asking, “Why in the world would you spend money to improve a seed [if anyone could then duplicate it freely]?,” and Justice Stephen Breyer pointing out that federal law prohibits “making a copy of a patented invention… [and] that’s the end of it.”
USDA Secretary Announces New Conservation Reserve Program Sign-Up
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week USDA will hold a new sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) beginning May 20 and running through June 14. CRP is a program that pays producers a per-acre rental rate for taking land out of production and planting environmentally beneficial cover vegetation. CRP acreage is typically enrolled in the program under contracts lasting 10 to 15 years. The program currently has 27 million acres enrolled with contracts on 3.3 million acres set to expire Sept. 30. Since it was first authorized in 1985, CRP has provided considerable environmental benefits, including wildlife and bird habitat and the reduction of more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and 300 million pounds of phosphorus annually. Farmers interested in the new CRP sign-up can get additional information by visiting their local Farm Service Agency office or going to http://www.fsa.usda.gov.
NC-FAR Announces First Two Lunch-And-Learn Events for 2013
The National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research, known as NC-FAR, has announced its first two “Lunch-and-Learn” sessions in 2013 for Capitol Hill staffers. The first, scheduled for Thursday, March 7, will focus on invasive weeds used as biomass crops. The second, set for Monday, March 18, will focus on balancing food, fuel and plant nutrients as the population expands. NC-FAR is made up of food, agriculture, nutrition, conservation and natural resource stakeholders who work to provide education and information about the importance of public investments in food and agriculture research. Nearly 1,000 attendees participated in the NC-FAR briefings last year. More is available online at www.ncfar.org.
Commodity Classic Events Begin Tuesday in Florida
The 2013 Commodity Classic convention, trade show and annual meeting for NAWG and corn, soybean and sorghum associations begins next week in Kissimmee, Fla. NAWG meetings start late Tuesday and run through Thursday. NAWG will participate in all of the Classic-specific events, including in a large trade show booth put on in partnership with U.S. Wheat Associates and the Wheat Foods Council. Two “What Is New” sessions on Saturday morning will focus on wheat, including one discussing advances in wheat breeding. The National Wheat Foundation will meet Saturday afternoon. An updated schedule of NAWG events at Classic is available at www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/meetings-nawg-classic-2013-20130221.pdf. More about the Classic convention events is at www.commodityclassic.com.
NAWG Begins Search for New Chief Executive Officer
NAWG’s grower-leaders are accepting applications for the position of chief executive officer until April 5. Application materials should be submitted via e-mail to incoming NAWG President Bing Von Bergen at president (at) wheatgrowers.org. More about the job requirements and ideal candidates is online at www.wheatworld.org/about-us/ceo/. Incumbent CEO Dana Peterson resigned her position as of Feb. 8.
Extra Credit: Farm Policy Facts Releases Pocket Guide to Agriculture
The Farm Policy Facts coalition released this week a new pocket guide to help farmers and other stakeholders educate policymakers, media and consumers about the important role agriculture plays in our economic recovery and national security. The eight-panel guide includes updated information on agriculture’s contribution to our economy, the cost-effectiveness of farm policy and the importance of the “thin green line” of full-time farms, which produce 80 percent of our food and fiber. The tool is part of FPF’s larger outreach program including regular e-mail alerts featuring farm policy news, detailed analysis and case studies of farm policy in action. NAWG is a member of FPF, along with six other ag trade associations. The new pocket guide can be downloaded directly at http://www.farmpolicyfacts.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/16703_FP_8pnl_bro_vfnl.pdf.