NAWG Weekly Update: Dec. 12, 2013

December 12, 2013 Bookmark and Share

No Farm Bill This Year
Disagreements over the commodity title have further delayed Congress from completing a farm bill by the end of the year. The four principals (Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.) have been exploring various ways to frame the commodity title in order to please all parties while staying within their budget target. This has proved to be difficult, and the negotiations and a possible vote on the final package have been pushed to January when Congress returns from the Holiday recess. Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) filed a one-month extension of the 2008 farm bill on Tuesday night, which passed the House floor this afternoon by a voice vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that any extension the House passes is dead on arrival in the Senate. The possibility of the “dairy cliff”—dairy prices rising significantly on January 1 once permanent law kicks in—is a significant motivator to move on an extension. However, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) stated that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack assured her there would be no impacts on dairy prices in January. This allows negotiators to continue their work and prepare a conference committee report that can be voted on early next month. NAWG is encouraged by the progress that has been made and is looking forward to a comprehensive five-year farm bill being passed in the near future.

Ryan and Murray Strike a Budget Deal
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) rolled out an agreement Tuesday that would reduce budget deficits by $85 billion over the next decade and fund federal agencies through fall 2015. This budget deal should prevent another government shutdown and end the cycle of Congress passing continuing resolutions each year to keep the government running. About $45 billion of the cuts replace sequestration cuts in 2014, roughly $20 billion replaces sequestration cuts in 2015, and the remaining $20 billion goes toward deficit reduction.

Most of the sequestration cuts will go into effect with the deal, including a 7.2% cut to both the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. Producer dollars combined with the MAP and FMD programs return $115 to the economy for every $1 spent on wheat programs and are crucial tools to promote our products abroad. The total economic gain to the U.S. economy from increased market development activity was $1.1 billion per year from 2002 to 2009, and NAWG will continue to support full funding of these programs. The proposal also includes a new conservation planning user fee that requires NRCS to charge up to $150 per conservation plan, but allows the fee to be waived for Highly Erodible Land conservation plans and for assistance complying with Federal, state or local regulatory requirements.

The House plans to vote on the budget deal later today, while the Senate will take the measure up next week.  Click here for more information.

Pacific Rim Trade Negotiations Will Continue in 2014
The latest round of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations concluded last week in Singapore with “great momentum,” according to United States Trade Representative Michael Froman. Few details have been provided, but the negotiations reportedly focused on trade rules and market access. TPP negations aim to provide the participating countries with free trade agreements that would give the U.S. a link to rapidly growing economies and populations in countries of the Asian Pacific region, several of which are quickly increasing markets for U.S. Wheat. All of the countries involved hope to not only reduce barriers to trade, but also set higher standards in areas such as labor and intellectual property rights protections. With no full agreement reached in Singapore, it appears the negotiators will not meet their stated goal of completing the TPP by the end of 2013. The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place next month. For more on TPP and other trade related news, see NAWG’s trade policy page at http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/trade/.

Senate Committee Reviews Renewable Fuels Standard
Yesterday the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the Renewable Fuels Standard and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed renewable fuel requirements for 2014. A representative from the EPA addressed the E10 blend wall, declining gas use and the basis for the agency’s proposal to lower the renewable fuel requirement. Supporters of the RFS—including Retired General Wesley Clark of Growth Energy, John Holzfaster representing the National Corn Growers Association, Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Ethanol Council and Jim Collins with DuPont—addressed the expanding use of E15, developing technologies and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels. Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) outlined her support of the RFS and the positive impacts of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, job creation, reduced dependence on foreign oil and expanded domestic renewable fuel production. Opponents of the RFS highlighted the increased rate of cropland conversion, water quality issues related to increased corn production in the Midwest, studies that renewable fuel use is not leading to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and engine compatibility issues with E15 for cars built before 2012. NAWG opposes EPA’s proposed reduction and will be submitting comments on the proposal prior to the January 28, 2014 deadline.

Conservation Programs Reduce Nutrient Runoff in Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Last week, USDA released an updated version of the Chesapeake Bay Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) including cropland conservation practices between 2009-2011. “This report demonstrates that voluntary conservation practices made possible through the Farm Bill can have a substantial impact on limiting nutrient and sediment runoff from farms in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and across the nation,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The report estimates that since 2006, conservation practices applied by farmers and landowners are reducing nitrogen leaving fields by 48.6 million pounds each year, or 26 percent, and reducing phosphorus by 7.1 million pounds, or 46 percent. Conservation practices have also lowered the average estimated loss of sediment by about 15.1 million tons a year, or 60 percent. The USDA report is an important tool for agriculture to demonstrate conservation improvements and positive environmental impacts, especially in light of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Click here to view a copy of the report.

WILOT Program Celebrates 15 Classes and Counting
For the past 15 years, the Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow (WILOT) program has brought together up-and-coming state wheat grower leaders, current national wheat organization leaders and senior staff for an intensive training session designed to equip wheat growers with the knowledge and skills to be productive future wheat organization leaders. WILOT—a program of the National Wheat Foundation that is coordinated, executed and funded by Monsanto—recently graduated its 15th class following an intensive five-day curriculum featuring experts in group dynamics, agricultural policy, consumer food production concerns, grower and consumer communications, social media, sustainability and advocacy. The 2013 participants also experienced the latest in research techniques and learned about wheat innovations that may be available to wheat growers in the future. The 10 participating growers represented California, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington.

Last call for Minore Scholarship Applications
The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) is making one last call for qualified applicants for the Minore Scholarship. The program will fund two $1,500 scholarships and two $1,000 scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year for students with connections to the wheat industry who are planning careers in agriculture. The Minore Scholarship honors longtime BASF employee and wheat champion Jerry Minore. 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. Don’t miss your chance to apply; applications are due to the NWF office by Dec. 15.