In Latest Twist, Farm Bill Passes House Without Nutrition Provisions
Weeks after the House of Representatives failed to approve a committee-written farm bill, Members passed on Thursday a measure that excluded the nutrition title and permanent authorization for farm programs. The highly contentious bill, H.R. 2642, was brought to the floor by Republican Leadership under strong objection from Democrats, who spent most of the day employing procedural tactics to slow debate and delay a vote on final passage. The final tally for the legislation was 216-208 with 11 Members not voting, less than a majority for either side but enough to move the measure forward to conference.
This version approved Thursday included all titles of the farm bill as amended on the House floor the week of June 17 except the nutrition title. Additionally, the bill included language to repeal the 1938 and 1949 permanent farm laws, making permanent whatever Title I language is eventually agreed to this year. By contrast, the Senate-approved farm bill includes nutrition provisions and maintains the old farm laws. It is unusual but allowable to conference such drastically different measures, though producing a conference report both bodies can agree to and the President will sign will be challenging.
Following final passage, NAWG released a statement from President Bing Von Bergen, a farmer in Moccasin, Mont., emphasizing that the bill split was a concern though the Association is pleased to be moving toward conference. NAWG staff and grower leaders look forward to working with the conference committee to achieve a final, long-term farm bill.
South Korea to Resume U.S. Wheat Purchases as APHIS Continues Investigation
South Korea will resume purchases of American wheat, which had been temporarily suspended following the announcement from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on May 29 that it is investigating the discovery of an unapproved genetically modified (GM) trait in volunteer wheat plants in one field in Oregon. The Korean decision comes as a result of their extensive testing of American wheat, which found no GM material in commercial supplies. This reaffirms the USDA conclusion that this was a limited, isolated incident and that no GM wheat had entered commercial supplies. NAWG, USW and other members of the U.S. wheat value chain are continuing to work with USDA and overseas customers as the investigation continues. For more, visit www.wheatworld.org/aphisinvestigation.
Senate Ag to Look at CFTC Reauthorization as Regulator Files MF Global Charges
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee is set to hear testimony related to the coming reauthorization of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which will include examining measures in place to protect customer funds. The question of these funds’ safety has come up primarily because of several high-profile bankruptcies, including that of MF Global, in which $1 billion belonging to farmers, ranchers and other customers was lost. CFTC filed an enforcement action against the company, former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine and former assistant treasurer Edith O’Brien late last month. The regulator is seeking full restitution of lost funds from MF Global as well as penalties up to $100 million in addition to trading bans against Corzine and O’Brien. More from CFTC on the action is at http://www.cftc.gov/PressRoom/PressReleases/pr6626-13. More on the coming Senate hearing is at www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/2013cftcreauthorization.
Ag Groups Urge Continued Funding for Global Crop Diversity Trust
NAWG and other agricultural organizations wrote House and Senate appropriators this week urging them to continue authority and funding for the Global Crop Diversity Trust in the FY2014 state and foreign operations appropriations bill. The Trust undertakes a variety of activities to maintain global crop genetic resources, including through seed banking, and is a complement to the National Plant Germplasm System operated through USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Funding for the Trust is authorized through the farm bill. From FY2008 through FY2012, the Trust received $34.5 million in the appropriations process; the groups writing this week encouraged an additional of $12 million for the Trust’s endowment to ensure reliable and adequate funding. The full letter is available online at www.wheatworld.org/budget.
Senate Ag Reviews Proposed Smithfield Purchase by Chinese Company
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee met Wednesday to discuss the food safety and economic implications to the farm and food sector of a proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods by Chinese company Shuanghui International. Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and others stressed the importance of food safety standards at the hearing, with Smithfield Chief Executive Officer Larry Pope testifying food safety was a top priority for the two companies and would be part of the marketing of Smithfield pork to Chinese consumers. Pope said he believes the merger will increase exports, benefiting U.S. producers and processors, a position agreed with by an economist on the panel. Two other economists, however, voiced strong opposition to the merger, arguing the deal would give China access to Smithfield’s intellectual property and ultimately lead to a Chinese takeover of U.S. pork exports to Asia. More from the hearing is available directly at www.ag.senate.gov.
Farmers, Handlers Reminded to Take Stewardship Precautions With Treated Seed
The North American Export Grain Association is reminding farmers to take precautions necessary to avoid mixing treated seed with commodity grain supplies. U.S. law prohibits the intentional addition of treated seed to commodities, and seed stewardship guidelines are in place to prevent their accidental introduction. Maintaining the stellar U.S. reputation for appropriately managing treated seeds and other crop protection products is vital to the overall satisfaction of customers in the U.S. and export destinations. A guide for the management of treated seed is available free to farmers and others at http://seed-treatment-guide.com/.
ICYMI: Ug99 Resistance Gene Found By Scientists at K-State, UC-Davis
A research project at Kansas State University and the University of California-Davis has identified a gene that gives wheat plants resistance to the virulent stem rust Ug99. In a study published recently in the journal Science, the team identified a stem rust resistance gene named Sr35, with results appearing along side a separate study from an Australian group that identifies another effective resistance gene called Sr33. With funding from USDA and the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, the U.S. scientists spent nearly four years trying to identify the location of the Sr35 gene in the large and complex wheat genome. More on the finding is at http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/jun13/sr3562713.html.