NAWG Weekly Update: June 20, 2013

June 20, 2013 Bookmark and Share

Here’s a quick report on NAWG activities and priorities this week. For more, please follow us online at www.facebook.com/wheatworld and www.twitter.com/wheatworld.

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House Farm Bill Fails on 195 to 234 Vote With No Plan B Apparent

The House of Representatives defeated its version of the 2013 Farm Bill Thursday afternoon on a 195 to 234 vote, stunning the agriculture community and calling into question how long-term farm policy will be enacted before a current one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30. After the vote, both House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) vowed to press onward in their chamber, though neither offered a plan B for the bill. Like most in the farm community, NAWG is in the process of evaluating legislative options and determining how best to support lawmakers in the coming weeks and months of debate.

103 Amendments Processed in House Debate; Threats to Crop Insurance Defeated

The 2013 Farm Bill debate in the House this week included processing of 103 amendments under a structured rule, which provided strict time limits for debate and allowed the chamber to work through the legislation in just a few days. A full list of amendments and how they were resolved is at http://repcloakroom.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=339655.

Four amendments that were ultimately not adopted by the House would have had a negative effect on crop insurance. Three of the four were rejected by a majority vote: an amendment offered by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) to restore $20.5 billion in cuts to the SNAP program with funds from Title I and crop insurance; an amendment offered by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and cosponsors to apply means testing and payment caps to crop insurance premium subsidies; and an amendment offered by Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) to allow the Administration to use any funds cut from the Standard Reinsurance Agreement for other, non-farm program purposes. A separate amendment from Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) to tie conservation compliance requirements to crop insurance contracts was withdrawn from consideration before it could be voted on. Crop insurance has and will continue to be NAWG’s top priority in the farm bill process.

USDA Emphasizes Limited Scope of GM Wheat Find; Investigation Ongoing

USDA said last week it has found nothing in its ongoing investigation into the detection of a few genetically engineered wheat plants in Oregon to indicate the issue “amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm.” The Department issued a statement Friday updating its investigation, also noting that there is no indication biotech wheat is in commerce, and all seed and grain tested for the Roundup Ready trait have come back negative. This week, representatives from NAWG, U.S. Wheat Associates, the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) and the Oregon Wheat Commission met with USDA officials to press the continued need for high-level communication with foreign governments and wheat buyers. There was at least one indication late in the week some customers’ concerns may be easing: wheat purchasers in Taiwan bought U.S. wheat, opting not to exclude wheat from the Pacific Northwest in their order. NAWG is providing updates on the situation as it develops online at http://www.wheatworld.org/aphisinvestigation/.

Appropriations Committees in Both Chambers Approve Ag Spending Bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY2014 agriculture appropriations bill Thursday on a 23 to six vote. The bill was approved by the subcommittee with jurisdiction over ag programs on Tuesday. The bill includes $20.93 billion in discretionary spending, up slightly from FY2013. The House Appropriations Committee approved its agriculture spending bill last week on a voice vote, with a total of $19.5 billion in discretionary spending. The Senate Appropriations Committee was also set to approve subcommittee spending allocations, known as 302(b)s, on Thursday; the House Appropriations Committee distributed 302(b)s in May. Though appropriators on both sides of Capitol Hill are moving forward with their work, it’s not clear how or when the chambers will conference a budget resolution or appropriations measures. More from the House Committee is at http://appropriations.house.gov/; more from the Senate Committee is at http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/.

Senate Overwhelmingly Confirms New U.S. Trade Representative

The Senate confirmed Mike Froman as the new U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on Wednesday on a 93 to four vote. Froman was most recently the assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for international economics. He previously served in the Clinton Administration and was a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund and worked in the private sector. Froman takes the helm at USTR as several major trade deals are under negotiation, including with the European Union and Pacific Rim nations. Both agreements could open significant market opportunities for U.S. wheat producers and are strongly supported by NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates.

Three Awarded World Food Prize for Developing Biotech Research Tools

Three scientists were awarded the World Food Prize this week for their work in “founding, developing and applying modern agricultural biotechnology.” Marc Van Montagu of Belgium and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley of the United States were given the high honor during a ceremony at the U.S. State Department, where Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the keynote address. The president of the Prize emphasized that the research done by each individual has helped farmers increase yields in the face of threats from insects, disease and changing climatic conditions. By doing so, their work has led to the development of genetically enhanced crops that have contributed significantly to the quantity and availability of food. More about the World Food Prize and these scientists’ work is at http://www.worldfoodprize.org/en/laureates/2013_laureates/.