NAWG staff and grower-leaders spent the last week of Congress’ spring recess preparing for upcoming meetings and – with any luck – movement on important policy issues in the new work period. Here’s a quick update, and we’re always available online at www.facebook.com/wheatworld and www.twitter.com/wheatworld.
Congress Returns Next Week; Senate Farm Bill Mark-Up Expected in Late April
Members of Congress are set to be back in Washington next week after a two-week spring recess. Expected to be at the top the agenda are efforts to conference a budget resolution and begin the FY2014 appropriations process. The Obama Administration is scheduled to deliver its budget proposal on April 10, two months delayed from the traditional (and legal) deadline. The agriculture community is hoping for movement this spring toward a long-term farm bill, a process that has been stymied by fiscal and political uncertainty. While no official date has been set, word is that the Senate Agriculture Committee plans to mark-up a farm bill draft in April.
Crop Insurance Policies Pay Out $16 Billion to Farmers With Losses in 2013
National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) reported this week that more than $16 billion has been distributed to farmers suffering crop losses in the last year. The high indemnity figure is largely due to an ongoing drought across the United States, particularly in the Corn Belt. NCIS said farmers invested more than $4.1 billion in 2012 to purchase 1.2 million crop insurance polices protecting 128 different crops on 281 million acres of land. Illinois had the highest loss ratio at 3.81; nationally, the loss ration is 1.44. Crop insurance is a public-private partnership in which farmers and the federal government share the cost of policy premiums. The program is the most important component of the farm safety net for most growers, and it is NAWG’s top priority in the ongoing farm bill discussions.
Provision Providing Farmers Assurance About Planting Ability Simple, But Controversial
Included in the recently-passed continuing resolution was a provision giving farmers the assurance that once they have adopted a product that has been deemed safe by the USDA, their ability to plant and harvest the crop will not be jeopardized. This provision has received widespread attention on the Internet in recent days, primarily from writers who believe the myth that it will restrict the right to challenge the USDA’s determination of plant pest risk. What the provision will, in fact, do is provide farmers protection from activist groups abusing the court system to prevent already-reviewed crops from being planted and harvested. This is a real threat for farmers; a court-ordered injunction against planting herbicide-tolerant alfalfa during a duplicative environmental review meant farmers were barred from planting the crop for nearly four years. The CR provision, known formally as section 735 after its location in the law, upholds science- and fact-based decisions from regulatory bodies like USDA while providing protection to farmers from situations like that with biotech alfalfa. Additional interesting commentary is available from Forbes at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/04/02/exposing-the-anti-gmo-legal-machine-the-real-story-behind-the-so-called-monsanto-protection-act/.
25x’25 Alliance Issues Ag and Forestry Adaptation Report
Bioenergy coalition 25x’25 released this week a report outlining its view of adaptation strategies for agriculture in a time of changing weather patterns. The report is a product of a broad-based coalition of commodity groups, governmental and non-governmental entities, land grant universities and a number of farmers and ranchers. Its recommendations focus on real-time and common sense approaches including continued reliance on a strong, viable safety net for farmers (including crop insurance) and new research into a wide range of agriculture topics, including cropping patterns, tillage practices, equipment, production of alternate fuels and chemicals, and use of biotechnology to further improve sustainability for agriculture. The report is available online at www.25×25.org.
Wheat Leaders Travel to D.C. for Meetings on CEO Search, Foundation, Research
NAWG’s officer corps and the Board of Directors of the National Wheat Foundation (NWF) will come to Washington, D.C., early next week for back-to-back meetings. On Monday, the grower representatives in both groups will meet to continue the organizations’ search for a new chief executive officer. The NWF Board is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. The wheat industry’s annual fly-in to educate policymakers about wheat research will bring together wheat growers, researchers, millers and bakers beginning Wednesday morning, ending up Thursday afternoon. Questions about any of the planned meetings can be sent to wheatworld (at) wheatworld.org.
Media Availability on Research Funding, Priorities Set for Wednesday Noon
Stakeholders visiting Washington, D.C., to press the importance of wheat research to policymakers will tell their stories to members of the media during an availability set for Wednesday, April 10. The event will begin at noon in NAWG’s Capitol Hill offices and 12:30 p.m. Eastern time via conference call. Lunch and wifi will be available for reporters attending in-person. Farmers, wheat breeders from three states, and miller and baker representatives will be on hand at the event. The fly-in is an annual event organized by NAWG and the National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC), an organization of wheat researchers and stakeholders, in partnership with the North American Millers’ Association and the American Bakers Association. To RSVP, email Melissa George Kessler at mkessler (at) wheatworld.org.
NAWG CEO Application Materials Due on Sunday
Applications for the position of NAWG chief executive officer and National Wheat Foundation executive director are due Sunday. The organization is seeking a new staff lead following the February departure of CEO Dana Peterson. Interested individuals should send a resume, cover letter and salary history to the search committee via president (at) wheatgrowers.org.
Extra Credit: Wheat Planted in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Kitchen Garden
First Lady Michelle Obama and volunteers did some spring planting Thursday in the White House garden, putting in stands of both “bread wheat” and club wheat, according to the blog Obama Foodorama. There’s no word yet on specific variety, how the crop will be managed or what is planned for the grain post-harvest. However, pictures of the planting are available on the Twitter feeds of ag reporters Jerry Hagstrom, www.twitter.com/hagstromreport, and Sara Wyant, www.twitter.com/agripulse.