There’s been much disconcerting news in our nation this week and several rough storms in wheat country. We hope this update finds our readers safe and as optimistic as possible for the crop season and our mutual futures. As always, please join us online at www.facebook.com/wheatworld and www.twitter.com/wheatworld.
House Ag Committee Farm Bill Mark-Up Set for May 15
Official word came late Thursday that the House Agriculture Committee will mark up its version of long-term farm policy on May 15. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) had expressed hope her panel would mark up a bill in April, though just one legislative week remains in the month. The current one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30.
Congress Holds Hearings on Administration Budget Requests
Congress began this week the process of debating the merits of Obama Administration budget requests, delivered to Capitol Hill last week more than two months behind schedule and after both chambers had passed their budget resolutions. Hearings in the House’s agriculture appropriations subcommittee included testimony from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, leadership from USDA’s Research, Education and Economics mission area and USDA staff focused on agriculture marketing and regulatory programs. REE officials were asked about specifics of the Administration’s research funding proposals, including the requested elimination of funding for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, which the wheat industry strongly opposes. Full testimony and archived webcasts of the hearings are at http://appropriations.house.gov/subcommittees/subcommittee/?IssueID=43419. The next step in the Congressional budget process is for the House and Senate to come to a compromise on spending intentions, though a conference committee has yet to be named. The federal government’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Immigration Compromise Reached, Including Ag Labor Proposals
A sweeping immigration compromise developed by a bipartisan group of Senators reportedly includes provisions related to agricultural workers lauded by both farm groups and farm worker unions. The agreement would allow for up to 112,000 visas to be issued per year for farm workers, with a maximum of 337,000 visas at one time. Visas could last as long as three years and would allow for yearlong work. Wages would also rise under the plan. Immigrants make up a large portion of the workforce for many parts of the agriculture industry including the fruit and vegetable, dairy and meat sectors.
Ag Groups Voice Support for Strong, Enforceable SPS Measures in TPP
More than 55 agriculture and food groups wrote White House trade negotiators and trade leaders in Congress this week urging the inclusion of enforceable “WTO-plus” sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) provisions as part of a successful Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. The groups said SPS barriers are “a significant and growing impediment to market access” for U.S. goods, and that a successful agreement upon standards and enforcement mechanisms in the TPP could pave the way for similar agreements in a new set of trade negotiations with the European Union. The U.S. wheat industry strongly supports both sets of negotiations. The letter sent this week and a reply to an inquiry on TPP SPS provisions from House Committee on Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) are available at www.wheatworld.org/trade.
Wheat Crop Faces Weather Challenges Across the Country
Wheat country continues to face challenges from winter weather, including abnormally high amounts of snow for the year and freezing temperatures. Hard red winter areas have already had a number of freeze events in recent weeks and another is coming overnight for much of the region. Farther north, abnormal snowfall means farmers are struggling to plant spring wheat at all. USDA’s crop progress report issued Monday showed just 4 percent of winter wheat in 18 states had headed, compared to 28 percent at this time last year. Thirty-one percent of winter wheat was rated poor or very poor, compared to just 11 percent at this time last year. Just 6 percent of spring wheat was planted in the top producing states as of last week, compared to a third last year at the same time and an average of 13 percent over the past five years.
Chicago Food Dialogues Event to Tackle Biotech Crops Controversies
The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s next Food Dialogues is scheduled for this coming Monday, April 22. The event will be part of the 2013 BIO International Convention with a focus on agricultural biotechnology. Panelists will include farmers, media, industry and members of academia, who will answer some of the toughest questions surrounding GMOs. The panel will begin at 1:45 p.m. CDT and will stream live online at www.fooddialogues.com. Viewers can also follow along on Twitter by using the #FoodD hashtag. More about the event is at http://www.fooddialogues.com/chicago-food-dialogues.
NAWG Seeks Policy Communications Intern for Summer Term
NAWG is seeking an intern interested in agriculture and policy communications to join its staff in Washington for the summer. The selected student will work with the NAWG communications director and staff to develop reports, press releases and newsletters, maintain and build NAWG’s online presence and keep states and stakeholders up-to-date on policy happenings. The intern will be considered a temporary NAWG employee and paid hourly. Applications for the communications internship are due April 30. Full details are available online at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Communications-NAWG-Internship-Program-Description.pdf.
Extra Credit: IFIC Releases Updated Biotech Communications Guide
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation recently released an updated edition of its biotechnology communications guide, indented for use by farmers, agriculture stakeholders, nutritionists and others talking about biotech crops and the food made from them. The guide is titled Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding, 3rd edition, and is available online for free at http://www.foodinsight.org/foodbioguide.aspx. Hard copies of the resource can also be ordered through the website for a nominal price.