Congress Heads to Recess with No Formal Farm Bill Conference Plans
Both chambers of Congress are set to adjourn tomorrow for the August recess with no formal plans for a farm bill conference during the break. Senate leaders have indicated their readiness to name conferees for the legislation, but House leaders have said they will not do so until that chamber acts on a nutrition package, likely in September. Late Thursday, word came that House Republicans have potentially come to an agreement on cuts of $40 billion to the food stamp program, officially known as SNAP, in new legislation. If passed, this compromise would go to conference along with the “farm-only farm bill” passed by the House last month and the Senate farm bill passed in June, which maintains all of the traditional farm bill titles. Farm programs are currently operating on a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, which expires on Sept. 30. NAWG will continue to work with Congressional staff as they undertake informal discussions during the recess period about how to move forward. The Association’s top priority is a new, long-term, comprehensive farm law before the existing extension expires. NAWG also encourages all wheat farmers to meet with their Members of Congress during the August work period and emphasize the importance of ensuring long-term certainty for farm, conservation, research and other programs included the farm and food law.
Japan Resumes Purchases of All Classes of U.S. Wheat
Wheat farmers cheered Japan’s decision this week to resume tenders for all classes of U.S. wheat, including western white (WW) and soft white wheat (SWW). On Thursday, Japan purchased approximately 90,000 tons of WW, which it has not done since an announcement in late May by USDA that it is investigating the discovery of volunteer wheat plants with an unapproved genetically modified (GM) trait in a single field in Oregon. The announcement from Japan comes as a result of a thorough, science-based review of the ongoing investigation by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) as well as a sustained effort by the wheat industry, USDA and many others to provide the information MAFF needed to buy all types of wheat again. USDA and MAFF have now tested hundreds of samples of U.S. wheat and found no evidence of any GM material in commercial supplies, which reaffirms the USDA conclusion that this was a limited, isolated incident. More on the investigation and the industry response is at www.wheatworld.org/aphisinvestigation/.
CFTC’s Ag Advisory Committee Talks Dodd-Frank Implementation, Recordkeeping Rules
Members of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC’s) Agricultural Advisory Committee met last week in Washington, D.C., to hear from commissioners and CFTC staff about the expected impacts of new rules related to the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform law and changes to commodity trading records requirements. Agriculture represents a mere $200 billion worth of trading in the estimated $300 trillion swaps market overseen by CFTC, meaning ag issues are a relatively minor, if vital, part of the regulator’s charge in the modern economy. The annual meeting gives the opportunity for farm stakeholders to provide their perspectives on the agency’s procedures and regulations. At Thursday’s meeting, CFTC leaders emphasized they are focused on preventing fraud and ensuring transparency in the marketplace, particularly following high-profile bankruptcies in which customer money was in question. Farmers and commodity group representatives gave feedback on a proposal to require recordings of all trading instructions given over the phone or via text message. While this level of tracking would help stop malfeasance, it would be burdensome to individual farmers and small cooperatives. Farmers and commodity group representatives strongly urged commissioners to take into account the different scale and business practices of true agricultural market participants. NAWG’s First Vice President Paul Penner, a farmer in Hillsboro, Kan., is a member of the Ag Advisory Committee and attended the meeting to represent wheat growers.
Ag Transport Summit Brings Together Industry to Focus on Trucking, Rail, Waterways
The inaugural Ag Transportation Summit was held this week in Chicago, Ill., bringing together producer-leaders, members of agribusiness and government officials to discuss transportation issues facing today’s agriculture industry. The Summit was hosted by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the Soy Transportation Coalition, supported by USDA. Trucking, waterway and rail issues were tackled by summit attendees, with expert panels including leaders from each industry speaking on the topics. Keynote speakers at the event included Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.); Dan Elliot, chairman of the Surface Transportation Board; and Michael Scuse, acting USDA deputy secretary. Will Stafford, NAWG’s policy staffer focusing on transportation, attended the event to represent the Association and wheat farmers. More information on the event including speaker presentations is at www.ngfa.org/events/upcoming-events/transportation-summit/.
Farm Groups Concerned About Impact of New Proposals to Restrict Insecticide Class
NAWG and other ag groups are concerned that new regulations on certain insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, could have a negative impact on U.S. farmers’ productivity and competitiveness in international markets. A bill introduced last week by Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) would suspend the use of the products, some of the most commonly used insecticides in the United States, over fears about their impacts on honey bees. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has notified the pesticide industry that they are developing new label language that will apply to all neonicotinoid products registered for outdoor sites, regardless of formulation or intended user. NAWG and other agriculture groups, including pesticide makers, understand the importance of pollinators to ag production and also have serious concerns about how labeling changes or new laws will impact the ability of farmers to use neonicotinoids. More about the issue is available from CropLife America at http://www.croplifeamerica.org/pesticide-issues/protecting-our-pollinators.
Extra Credit: GMOAnswers.com Launches to Provide Information, Promote Conversation
A new online resource committed to providing answers, research and data about GMOs in agriculture – all in one place for the first time – launched Monday at www.GMOAnswers.com. The site is a joint initiative by ag groups and biotechnology companies to address the lack of information and the strong desire for conversation about biotech crops. Nearly half of people surveyed don’t know or aren’t sure of what a genetically modified crop is, and most have very little understanding of what GMO products are on the market today. This lack of knowledge can be a breeding ground for confusion and misconception, which GMO Answers is aiming to combat by inviting the public to submit questions and get access to information, including easy-to-read Q and As and peer-reviewed scientific research.