President’s budget released
On Tuesday, the President released his nearly $4 trillion 2015 budget proposal, exactly one month late. The proposal is within the limitations set by the bi-partisan budget deal reached in December but also includes an additional $56 billion in supplemental spending, subject to funding or offsets. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expenditures for 2015 are expected to be $140 billion, of which 76% is for nutrition assistance programs. The proposal includes a $14 billion cut to Crop Insurance over the next 10 years, the elimination or consolidation of 250 Farm Service Agency offices and reduces funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program by $250 million in fiscal year 2015. However, it includes full funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program. The President’s budget is largely ignored by Congress, who will establish spending limits through the annual appropriations process.
USDA Holds Briefing on Farm Bill Implementation
The USDA held a briefing for stakeholders on the current status of farm bill implementation on Wednesday. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the crowd stating that they are working hard to get a firm timeline for the upcoming rule making and encouraged the group to be as active as possible in the process. The Secretary mentioned that disaster programs were at the top of the implementation list, as well as safety net programs. Vilsack acknowledged that farmers are going to have to make a lot of decisions in the coming months that will last through the length of the farm bill, and USDA’s hope is to provide growers with as much information as possible to make those decisions. He also pointed out that winter wheat is an exception, since growers who need to make decisions on their winter wheat crop will have to do so before the programs are up and running, they will be able to change their minds without a penalty. The NAWG looks forward to continuing to work with USDA on implementation. A list of USDA-hosted listening sessions scheduled over the next month is available at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2014/03/0035.xml.
NAWG Board Travels to San Antonio for Annual Meeting at Commodity Classic
NAWG Board Meeting Includes Guest Speaker Harden; New NAWG Executives Elected
NAWG meetings culminated in the full board meeting, which included guest speaker Krysta Harden, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Harden spoke to the board about farm bill implementation, assuring the board that it will be a transparent process and that USDA is open to hearing the concerns of wheat farmers as implementation gets underway. The meeting concluded with the election of a new NAWG Executive Committee, led by new NAWG president Paul Penner, a wheat farmer from Hillsboro, Kans. Other members of the NAWG Executive Committee include Brett Blankenship, first vice President; Gordon Stoner, second vice president; David Schemm, secretary-treasurer; Bing Von Bergen, immediate past president. For more information on NAWG meetings visit http://www.wheatworld.org/meetings-events/.
Domestic Trade and Policy Committee Talks Farm Bill
The Domestic Trade and Policy Committee, chaired by Ryan McCormick, a farmer from north central Montana, worked through a long list of expiring resolutions before turning its focus to the new farm bill. House Agriculture Committee staffers Bart Fischer and Pelham Straughn addressed the committee and discussed the farm bill process. Straughn talked about the success of passing this bill, although it was a four year process, it was passed during a very partisan Congress. Straughn also stressed that it was important for all of agriculture be united in the coming years to be able to move another farm bill through Congress. Fischer, who serves as the committee’s chief economist fielded many questions from the committee on Title I programs and process. For more information on NAWG policy visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/.
Environment and Renewable Resources Committee Discuses Policy and Sustainability
The NAWG Environment and Renewable Resources (ERR) Committee members met to review association policy and discuss environmental issues facing wheat growers. The committee, chaired by Nebraska wheat grower Dayton Christensen, reviewed more than 20 expiring resolutions and set new short-term priorities for the committee related to farm bill implementation. Montana wheat grower and former ERR committee chair Brian Eggebrecht demonstrated the Fieldprint Calculator, explaining the data needed to run the calculator. Committee vice-chair Bob Wisness updated the committee on increasing oil production in North Dakota and the impact on the environment and local community. For more information on NAWG policies on environmental regulation visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/environmentalregulation/.
Research and Technology Committee Discuss Innovation
The NAWG Research and Technology Committee meeting was conducted by vice chair Gary Millershaski who led the review of 19 expiring resolutions covering wheat breeding and innovation issues. The Committee also considered and approved a request to join other wheat and barley groups in signing onto a letter supporting continued funding for the T-CAP research program covering disease resistance and breeding efforts for wheat, barley and triticale. Funding for the project ends in 2015 and the letter urges the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to continue the funding the project when the existing 5-year funding concludes next year. Doug Hackney of the Enterprise Group, Ltd. provided an insightful summary of restrictions on the use and ownership of data generated by modern farm equipment. He indicated that what many original equipment manufacturers say on their websites and marketing claims about farmer ownership of data often do not agree with contractual restrictions when equipment is purchased. Copies of the presentation are available by request from the NAWG office.
National Wheat Foundation Awards Minore Scholarship at Classic
The Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship was presented to four recipients at Commodity Classic last week. The scholarships are awarded to students pursuing a degree in agriculture. National Wheat Foundation (NWF) board member Phil McLain presented the scholarships to Lee Moore of Red Springs, N.C., Trey Heitschmidt of Bushton, Kans, Heidi Jamison of Garfield, Wash. and Max Mielke of Davenport, Wash. The Scholarship honors longtime BASF employee and wheat champion Jerry Minore. To learn more about the scholarship, visit http://www.wheatfoundation.org/2012/10/applications-for-the-minore-memorial-scholarship-due-dec-1/.