NAWG’s Washington offices have been buzzing this week with activity related to spring policy meetings and preparation for Hill action related to the farm bill and other legislation. A quick report on these activities is below. Please also join us online at www.facebook.com/wheatworld and www.twitter.com/wheatworld.
Farm Bill Mark-Ups on Tap Next Week for House and Senate Ag Committees
Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees plan to mark up their versions of a 2013 Farm Bill next week. The Senate Committee scheduled a mark-up for Tuesday, May 14, and released a draft bill late Thursday (available in full at http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill). The House Committee scheduled its mark-up for Wednesday, May 15. Leaders in both chambers have indicated they would like to take up the farm bill this summer. Farm policy is currently operating under a one-year extension, which expires on Sept. 30.
NAWG Supports Senate Farm Bill Draft, Urges Quick Consideration and Floor Action
NAWG strongly supports efforts to finish a long-term farm bill this year, before the existing farm bill extension expires. The Association commends Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) for their work on the bill, which will provide a strong safety net and address needs in priority areas of research, conservation, food aid and trade. NAWG urges quick action in the Committee and on the Senate floor.
Alternative Conservation Title Bill Shows Crop Insurance Threats Ahead
In a preview of possible amendments coming during the farm bill debate, an alternative conservation title bill was introduced this week by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and 12 original cosponsors. Portions of the proposal would limit government cost-share for crop insurance on crops grown on land converted from sod grass or some wetlands. The bill would also tie conservation compliance to crop insurance, which NAWG strongly opposes. NAWG anticipates a robust amendment process during the farm bill debate, particularly on the House floor, as well as numerous proposals to weaken the crop insurance program. NAWG will continue to track such proposals and coordinate with state associations to combat them.
SPCC Amendment Added to Water Resource Bill Moving Through Senate
The Senate began work on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), S. 601, this week, including accepting an amendment to revise the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) rule for farms and ranches. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and was adopted by unanimous consent. The amendment would create an exemption for farms with up to 6,000 gallons aggregate of aboveground oil storage pending the completion of a study looking at a permanent exemption for farms with 2,500 to 6,000 gallons. It would also permit farms to self-certify their spill prevention plans if their aggregate aboveground oil storage is between 6,000 and 20,000 gallons with no individual tank greater than 10,000 gallons. The SPCC rule calls for farmers to have SPCC plans if an oil spill from their farms could reach a water of the United States and if they store oil in aboveground quantities of more than 1,320 gallons or completely buried tanks of more than 42,000 gallons. More about ag-related SPCC requirements is at http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/content/spcc/spcc_ag.htm.
Farm and Food Groups Ask Members to Oppose Biotech Labeling Bills
NAWG and 35 other ag and food organizations wrote to all Members of Congress this week voicing “strong opposition” to recently-introduced House and Senate bills that would require special labeling of foods containing ingredients derived from biotechnology or genetically engineered plants. The groups told legislators that there is no scientific basis for mandatory biotech labeling and that to require such labeling would likely confuse, and even unnecessarily alarm, consumers. Biotech crops have been grown in the United States for nearly 20 years and are highly regulated by USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA has long allowed companies to voluntarily market their products as not containing biotech ingredients while maintaining that labels are not required because biotech ingredients are not materially different than ingredients from other sources. The full letter is available online at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/biotech-coalition-opposing-labeling-bills-20130508.pdf.
USDA Restarts Payments for 2011 SURE, NAP and MILC
USDA said Wednesday that farm payments temporarily suspended due to sequestration have been resumed. Payments affected are related to the 2011 SURE program, the Noninsured Crop Assistance Program (NAP) and the Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC). USDA began suspending payments from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) temporarily in early March so it could determine how best to implement sequestration cuts.
Brazilian Selected as New WTO Director-General
Brazilian Roberto Azevedo has been selected as the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), succeeding sitting director-general Pascal Lamy in September. Azevedo is currently Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO and is said to be an advocate for completing the Doha Round of trade talks that was first initiated in 2001 and has stagnated in recent years.
USDA: Census of Agriculture Final Deadline Is May 31
The deadline for 2012 Census of Agriculture responses is May 31, and USDA is urging all farmers and ranchers who have not yet responded to do so quickly. The Ag Census is conducted once every five years and is the best source of consistent and comprehensive ag data for every state and county in the nation. Federal law requires a response from everyone who receives the Census form and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential. The Department said it has received more than 2 million completed Census forms. More about the Census, including how to complete the Census form, is at www.agcensus.usda.gov.
NAWG Officers, CEO-Elect Visit Hill and Administration Officials
NAWG’s five farmer-leaders and newly-appointed CEO Jim Palmer were in Washington, D.C., this week for spring meetings and to visit policymakers on Capitol Hill. The group visited 15 Hill offices, including the Majority and Minority offices for both Ag Committees, and met with staff at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA’s policy shop and USDA’ s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS).