Farm Bill Slowly Moving Toward Conference
The House of Representatives took the next step toward a formal conference of farm bill legislation by sending its version of the measure, sans nutrition title, to the Senate on Monday. The Senate can now either take up H.R 2642 as-is or amend it and then send it back to the House requesting a conference. Once the bill has been sent back to the House, that chamber will have to act again by passing a motion to go to conference and formally appoint conferees. It appears House Leadership would like to move forward with a House nutrition title before moving to the formal conference, though there is no timeline for that work yet. Meanwhile, reports indicate discussions are being held in both chambers to ascertain Members’ concerns, and informal talks between agriculture-focused staff are ongoing. NAWG is encouraging legislators to work toward removing all barriers to formal conference so a bill can be finalized before the current farm bill extension expires at the end of September.
Senate Ag Meets on Commodity Futures Trading Commission Reauthorization
Members of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee met Wednesday to begin the process of reauthorizing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by receiving testimony from a wide range of industry participants. Much of the concern expressed at the hearing centered on the apparent lack of transparency in the market, which allowed for events like the MF Global bankruptcy in 2011 and subsequent loss of customer funds. Members of the Committee said they believe the CFTC should offer some form of protection for consumer-segregated funds. Terry Duffy, executive at CME Group, warned, however, that any protective measures should not cause drastic changes in the market structure or increase expenses for customers, which could lead to a substantial decrease in participation in futures markets. More from the hearing is at http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/2013cftcreauthorization.
Budgets, Ag Appropriations Bills Still Stalled in Congress
The prospects for a continuing resolution appear to be increasing with just two weeks until August recess and impasses on both a budget resolution and appropriations bills, including the agriculture measure. Both chambers have passed budgets, but a conference committee has yet to be established and may never be for political reasons (a prospect that also concerns farm bill-watchers awaiting a conference for that legislation). An agriculture appropriations bill, which provides funding for USDA and other agencies, has still not been considered on the floor of either chamber, though both appropriations committees passed their versions in June. The ag appropriations bill provides funding for many important programs to the wheat industry, including the Market Access Program (MAP), Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, research programs including the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, and food aid.
USWBSI Reports Fusarium Head Blight in Several Southeast States
Early reports indicate the potential for more problems with Fusarium head blight, commonly known as scab, this crop year. The U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, a public-private-government research collaboration to fight scab, reported this week that early reports show hot spots in the southeastern United States. Signs of the disease have been noted in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas. The severity of outbreaks seems to be related primarily to weather, mitigated by the use of fungicides and resistant wheat varieties researchers have worked to develop in recent years. More of the scab report and tools for growers are available online at www.scabusa.org/.
Wheat Foods Council Elects New Officers
The Wheat Foods Council, a NAWG sister organization working on nutrition education, announced its 2013-2014 officers this week. Erica Olson, a marketing specialist with the North Dakota Wheat Commission, has been elected chair for the coming year. Cindy Falk, nutrition educator at Kansas Wheat and a past chairperson of WFC’s executive board, is vice chair; Don Brown, vice president of sales at ConAgra Mills, is secretary-treasurer; and Brent Robertson, a farmer in Nebraska and member of the Nebraska Wheat Board, is immediate past chair. More about the new WFC officers and WFC’s work on behalf of wheat growers is at www.wheatfoods.org/press.
NAWG and Wheat Foundation Hire Whaley as Corporate Relations Director
NAWG announced this week that Hugh Whaley, a longtime agriculture industry relations and communications professional, has joined the Association and National Wheat Foundation (NWF) as director of corporate relations. He will be both organizations’ staff lead working to initiate, build and maintain strategic relationships with agribusinesses and other industry partners. Whaley was most recently the general manager for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), of which NAWG is a member. Previous to that, he worked for two well-known marketing communications firms and for the American Soybean Association. More about Whaley and his new role is at http://www.wheatworld.org/news-events/2013/07/whaley-joins-wheat-growers-as-corporate-relations-director/.
NAWG Government Affairs Staffers Shupe, Stafford Promoted
NAWG has promoted Brooke Shupe to director of government affairs for risk management and Will Stafford to assistant director of government affairs for trade, transportation and commodity markets. Shupe joined the Association in April of last year and manages farm policy, crop insurance and related issues. She also runs WheatPAC, wheat growers’ political action committee. Stafford came to NAWG in 2011 and became a government affairs representative last year. In addition to trade, transportation and markets, Stafford follows research policy. More about Shupe, Stafford and other NAWG staff members and grower-leaders is at www.wheatworld.org/about-us/contact-us/.
ICYMI: 25 Billion Bushels Later, Kansas Farmers Continue With Technology, Persistence
The symbolic 25th billionth bushel of wheat in the past 100 years of Kansas farming was harvested recently near Colby and will be on display at the Kansas State Fair in September. Mike Brown, co-owner of Solomon Creek Farms, caught the grain in a bushel basket as his son Tanner unloaded the combine into a grain cart. Over the past 100 years, better seed genetics, improved equipment, new management practices like no-till and crop rotations, and sheer determination have allowed Kansas farmers to produce more than 25 billion bushels of wheat, equal to more than 1 trillion commercial loaves of bread. More on this story is at www.kswheat.com/news.php?id=723.