Farm Bill Update: Not Much Action on the Main Attraction
Farm leaders are meeting with constituents back home during the August recess, occasionally offering their thoughts on the likely farm bill end game but few details on a firm path to completion for the vital legislation. Both House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) have met with farmers recently to explain the political situation in Washington, D.C., reiterating the uncertain plan for the House to take up a nutrition-only bill, likely with $40 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, as soon as Congress returns. Both men have indicated tepid support for a two-year extension if a new, comprehensive bill cannot be written. For her part, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) reiterated this week that the farm bill would get done this year, though it might be pushed past the Sept. 30 deadline. Any talk of extension remains a non-starter in the Senate. NAWG encourages all farmers to be in contact with their Members of Congress over recess to urge completion of a new farm law this year.
New Pesticide Label Requirements Aim to Protect Bee Populations
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week it was ordering pesticide makers to update some product labels by Sept. 30 to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that could affect bee colonies. The new labels will feature a bee advisory box and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. EPA has been considering actions related to pollinator health for some time and notified companies in July that new label language was being developed. NAWG and other ag groups have urged that any new regulations on neonicotinoids be mindful of farmers’ continued need for access to the crop protection products. More about the new label requirements is at www.epa.gov/pesticides/ecosystem/pollinator/bee-label-info-graphic.pdf.
EPA Administrator Vows to Build Productive, Trusting Relationship with Farmers
The new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Gina McCarthy, has been on the job barely a month but appears to already be reaching out to farmers. The Des Moines Register reported recently that McCarthy visited the Iowa State Fair and promised to build a “stronger, more productive, more trusting relationship between EPA and the agriculture community” by the end of her term. McCarthy’s speech was reportedly met with applause from the farmers in attendance, who often find regulations from the Agency to be out-of-touch with their business practices in addition to confusing and costly. NAWG and NAWG-affiliated state associations look forward to continued work with EPA officials to share information about the realities of modern farming by bringing farmers to D.C. and EPA officials to farms, like with the North Dakota Grain Growers Association’s annual “e-tours.
National Science Foundation Taps K-State to Lead New Wheat Research Center
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named Kansas State University as its lead institution for the world’s first Industry/University Cooperative Research Center on wheat. This center is the first NSF-established center for any crop plant, though others exist for engineering and electronics projects. It will focus on improving food production and disease resistance in wheat in addition to training wheat scientists. The center will be split between K-State and Colorado State University, with Dr. Bikram Gill, K-State’s distinguished professor of plant pathology and director of the university’s Wheat Genetics Research Center, will serve as the director of the NSF center. Collaborators include the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Wheat Alliance, along with Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, Limagrain, Dow AgroSciences, General Mills and the Heartland Plant Innovation Center. More about the new research center is at www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/aug13/nsfplant81913.html.
WASDE Shows Worldwide Wheat Production at Record, U.S. Production Slightly Down
USDA’s latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) project that U.S. wheat supplies will be higher than original estimates and exports will increase 25 million bushels over earlier 2013/2014 projections due to strong sales and projected Chinese imports. Based on this, USDA projected the season average wheat price would be down 10 cents to a range of $6.40 to $7.60 per bushel. Worldwide, USDA now sees wheat supplies up 7.5 million tons to a record of 705.4 million tons (about 25.9 billion bushels). The latest WASDE is at www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/latest.pdf. WASDE analysis from U.S. Wheat Associates is available in USW’s latest Wheat Letter at www.uswheat.org/newsEvents/wheatLetter.
Industry and Corporate Relations Program a Priority for NAWG and NWF
In response to a desire from both NAWG’s and the National Wheat Foundation’s leadership to become more aggressive and effective in creating and implementing programs to benefit U.S. wheat growers, the groups have launched a strategic industry and corporate relations effort to build upon existing work to incorporate members of the wheat value chain as true partners in building a stronger U.S. wheat industry. In the coming weeks and months, NAWG efforts will be focused on advocacy support, while the NWF efforts will focus on seeking additional short- and long-term support for educational programs and increasing farmer and value-chain support for revitalizing the Wheat Growers Building in Washington, D.C. These efforts will include NAWG and NWF farmer-leader and senior staff presentations to current and future industry partners. Presentations and programs will include substantive return-on-investment opportunities for wheat value chain members and will be in coordination with state wheat organizations as NAWG and NWF programs are developed. For more about these efforts, contact Hugh Whaley, NAWG/NWF corporate relations director, at hwhaley (at) wheatworld.org.
Bread Bites: Grains for Your Brain Launches to Offer Consumers Fact-Based Grain Info
The Grain Foods Foundation (GFF) launched a new, interactive and consumer-focused website this week at www.GrainsForYourBrain.org. The digital outpost aims to offer shoppers, moms and those simply wanting to know more about their grain foods information from a fact-based perspective that will help them feel good about their grain choices. The site also offers access to common sense advice about eating and living healthfully and recipes to help do so, and it gives readers the opportunity to ask questions of grain experts. NAWG works with GFF and many other wheat chain groups to help consumers find the information they want about grain-based foods and encourages state organizations and farmers to incorporate the new site into their educational efforts.