The NAWG Weekly Update will be back on Dec. 5. Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday!
Farm Bill Negotiations Continue
Farm Bill conferees have been working diligently this week to come to an agreement on how to merge the House and Senate bills by the end of the week with Congress set to adjourn today for Thanksgiving recess until Monday, Dec. 2. Both Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) have expressed this week that they needed to come to a deal on a general framework for the bill in order to finish by December 13, which is when the House is scheduled to shut down for the Christmas holiday. Late this afternoon it was reported that the conferees failed to reach a deal and will continue the negotiations when Congress returns after the Thanksgiving holiday recess. This leaves the conferees eight legislative days to complete the bill by the end of the year. NAWG encourages our ag leaders and all farm bill conferees to continue to work out the differences between to the two bills in order to give our nation’s wheat farmers what they need the most; a comprehensive five-year farm bill that provides them with the certainty they need and deserve.
EPA Requesting Comments on RFS Proposed Change
Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued proposed changes to the 2014 Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), lowering the requirements for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel and ethanol to 15.2 billion gallons. EPA is proposing this action to address the “blend wall” issue, or the maximum amount of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline at a rate of 10 percent. With gas use decreasing, the “blend wall” is reached at a lower volume of ethanol. EPA is accepting comments on their proposed changes to the RFS and the announcement last week generated initial responses from biofuels groups addressing current plantings and jobs within the industry as well as reaction from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who stated, “I am pleased that EPA is requesting comments on how we can help the biofuels industry expand the availability of high-ethanol blends, and I hope the industry uses the comment period to provide constructive suggestions. Together, we will be able to chart a path forward that maintains President Obama’s strong commitment to an ‘All of the Above’ energy strategy for our nation.” NAWG policy supports the RFS and the development of E-15.
Agencies Meet to Review Endangered Species Consultation for Pesticide Registration
Last week the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted a public meeting to address a recently released white paper on interagency coordination related to pesticide registration and consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The new approach, outlined by the agencies during the meeting, is a result of recommendations from a National Academy of Sciences’ report released in April stressing the need for a common approach on data and models by each agency. The issues surrounding ESA consultation have been debated for more than 30 years and resulted in involvement from Congress, including a provision in H.R. 2642—the House-passed farm bill proposal. NAWG supports the provision in the farm bill addressing biological opinions related to pesticides and endangered species and will continue to be involved in the process developed by the agencies. A copy of the letter can be found at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/farmbill-ESA-conference-letter-20131101.pdf.
NAWG Supports Passage of WRRDA
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), which has been passed by both the House and Senate this year, went to conference committee this week to reconcile the differences between the two chambers’ bills before facing final passage by the end of the year. Members from both chambers, as well as both sides of the aisle have expressed confidence that they will get the bill passed before a new legislative session begins. WRRDA seeks to increase funding for waterway development projects, such as deepening waterways and lock and dam repair and upgrades. NAWG supports the passage of the WRRDA bill as it funds development for waterways such as the Columbia River system in the Pacific Northwest, where wheat is shipped to port before being exported abroad. More on NAWG’s position on WRRDA and other transportation issues can be found at http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/transportation/.
CFTC Nominees Uncertain
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow indicated that she does not expect her committee to vote on Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) nominees until next year despite the planned departure of multiple commissioners at year’s end, including Chairman Gary Gensler. This would leave the CFTC with just two voting members: Republican Scott O’Malia and Democrat Mark Wetjen. Thus far President Obama has nominated Treasury official Timothy Massad for Chairman and GFI Group Vice President J. Christopher Giancarlo to fill the vacant Republican seat. The agriculture industry has urged the administration to consider nominees that have a strong background in agriculture futures as the commission will be working towards implementing Dodd-Frank and Customer Protection oversight regulations next year, which could impact the way farmers trade futures. More on NAWG’s position, including a recent letter sent to CFTC on new customer protection rules, can be found at http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/othercorrespondence/.
NAWG Participates in Field to Market Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture Board Meeting
NAWG participated in the Field to Market Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture Board meeting at North Carolina State University this week. The group, responsible for developing the Fieldprint calculator, discussed next steps for Field to Market and the 2014 plan of work. NAWG has represented wheat growers on the coalition for several years and is working in coordination with member states on several pilot projects. If you have not used the Fieldprint calculator to assess your sustainability and efficiency, you can use the tool here: http://www.fieldtomarket.org/fieldprint-calculator/.
Minore Scholarship Applications are Due Dec. 15
NAWG is still accepting applications for the Minore Scholarship that funds four college scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year. Two $1,500 scholarships and two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to students with connections to the wheat industry who are planning careers in agriculture. The Minore Scholarship was established by NWF and BASF to honor longtime BASF employee and wheat champion, Jerry Minore, who passed away in 2012. More information about the program and application materials are available at http://www.wheatfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2013-Minore-Scholarship-Application.pdf. Applications are due to the NWF office by Dec. 15.
Wheat Foods Council Reacts to Enriched Flour Claims
The Wheat Foods Council submitted a letter in response to an article in the Washington Post that positioned white flour in a negative light. Judi Adams, WFC President, cites that “enriched flour is the primary source of folic acid as well as other B Vitamins in the American diet.” She goes on to say that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that enriched grains, primarily wheat, rather than supplements, are responsible for dramatically lowering neural tube birth defects by approximately one-third in the U.S. and name folic acid fortification of enriched grains as one of the top ten public health achievements of the last decade. For information on NAWG’s position on nutrition visit: http://www.wheatworld.org/wheat-info/nutrition/.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving accounting for one sixth of all turkeys sold in the U.S. each year. Similarly, one bushel of wheat yields approximately 42 loaves of bread while U.S. wheat farmers produce 2.4 million bushels of wheat annually. Everything tastes better with bread so go ahead and pass the bread basket this Thanksgiving!