Wheat Organizations Continue Outreach on APHIS Finding
NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates continued communication with USDA officials, Hill offices, state wheat organizations and others this week as the wheat industry – and the world – awaits further information about a finding of Roundup Ready wheat on one farm field in Oregon.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (AHPIS) confirmed the finding last week, noting that it poses no threat to human or animal health or safety. APHIS continues to investigate why wheat with the trait, which was field-tested by Monsanto from 1998 to 2005, was found in a field in late April. NAWG President Bing Von Bergen, a wheat farmer and seedsman from Montana, and NAWG CEO Jim Palmer participated in meetings this week with USDA officials and agriculture leaders on Capitol Hill to urge complete but timely conclusions from the investigation that can help the industry mitigate any customer concerns as the Pacific Northwest harvest begins in the next month or so. Japan and South Korea have declined to take imports of soft white wheat as the investigation continues. Monsanto has reportedly provided the information needed for accurate testing to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the European Union.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told members of the press his Department believes the finding was a “very isolated” event. Monsanto also said Wednesday that its scientists have tested 600 samples of the varieties planted in the field in question and found no further detections of the Roundup Ready trait. The company said it has also tested 50 other varieties used in the Pacific Northwest, which accounted for more than 60 percent of all planted acreage in 2011, and found no further areas of concern.
Senate Proceeds to Final Passage of Farm Bill, Likely on Monday
The Senate voted 75 to 22 Thursday morning to invoke cloture on its version of the 2013 Farm Bill. The chamber will next take up the bill on Monday, with a vote on final passage scheduled for 5:30 p.m. D.C. time. It remains unclear if any additional amendments will be debated and considered. NAWG appreciates the hard work of the Senate to move this bill forward and encourages support for final passage. NAWG and more than 100 other agriculture groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday encouraging passage of the final bill. That letter is available in full at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/farmbill-coalition-letter-urging-cloture-20130605.pdf.
Senate Bill Nearing Passage, Attention – and Heat – Turns Toward the House
Although it has been a mild week weather-wise in the nation’s capital, discussion surrounding a 2013 Farm Bill on the House side of the Hill is heating up. All signals point to the week of June 17 for the full House to take up its version of the farm bill. NAWG is very encouraged by the work of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), House Leadership and all of the Members of the Committee to move this bill forward. NAWG fully supports House passage of the bill approved by the Ag Committee, which includes more than $40 billion in savings for taxpayers. NAWG strongly encourages growers and member-states to reach out to local Representatives within the next week to voice support for House movement on the farm bill.
House Members Provide Markers for Possible Crop Insurance Amendments
House Members have started introducing legislation to lay the groundwork for possible amendments to that chamber’s version of a 2013 Farm Bill. On Wednesday, Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced H.R. 2260, which they called the Crop Insurance Accountability Act of 2013. The bill would essentially tie conservation compliance guidelines to the crop insurance program, a provision that NAWG is adamantly opposed to because it would be duplicative to existing compliance requirements in other farm programs and because it would likely limit overall participation in crop insurance. Similarly, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) introduced legislation last month that would “reform” the crop insurance program by establishing a payment cap of $40,000 per person per year; eliminating crop insurance premium subsidies for individuals with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of more than $250,000; and requiring private companies to pay for more of the administrative and operation costs of the program. NAWG expects Kind or one of the 10 co-sponsors of his bill to offer amendments to the farm bill similar to these proposals, all of which NAWG also firmly opposes.
House Ag Appropriations Approves Spending Bill
The House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee with jurisdiction over ag programs approved its $19.5 billion spending bill this week on a voice vote. The approved bill does not include many spending changes requested by the Obama Administration, including proposed changes to food aid programs that have been strongly opposed by farm groups including NAWG. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has slated the bill for consideration by the full House in June. The overall appropriations process has stalled somewhat; both chambers passed budget resolutions early in the year, but the two products have yet to be conferenced, and the chambers have moved forward with their own appropriations processes in the interim.
New NAWG Chief Executive Officer Officially Starts in D.C. Office
NAWG Chief Executive Officer Jim Palmer officially started work in the organization’s Capitol Hill offices this week. The NAWG Board of Directors named Palmer CEO on May 1, shortly after which he visited the NAWG offices to meet staff. Now if the office permanently, Palmer can be reached directly at jpalmer (at) wheatworld.org or 202-547-7800 x 1. More about Palmer’s extensive background in agriculture is at www.wheatworld.org/about-us/contact-us/jim-palmer.
National Wheat Foundation Board Meets in Dallas
Board members of the National Wheat Foundation gathered in Dallas Thursday for a business meeting running through the day on Friday. Topics of discussion are slated to include budget and fundraising efforts and ongoing plans to renovate the Wheat Growers Building, the Foundation’s chief asset. More about the Foundation’s work is at www.wheatfoundation.org.