USDA Begins Farm Bill Listening Sessions
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) held listening sessions this week to hear from stakeholders regarding the implementation of the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the Farm Bill. NAWG staff participated in the session regarding conservation and research programs operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Agriculture Resource Service. NRCS was given authority in the farm bill to keep programs operating this year with slight modifications, so please visit your local service center for information on enrolling in conservation programs. USDA hopes to have new regulations for consolidated conservation programs completed this spring or summer. Information on the upcoming sessions can be found on USDA’s website at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2014/03/0035.xml.
House Acts on Regulatory Relief Bills
This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 311, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act. The legislation will increase the farm exemption for the aggregate above ground storage capacity to less than or equal to 10,000 gallons. It will allow self certification for aggregate above ground storage capacity of between 10,000 and 42,000 gallons if a there is no history of a spill and require a professional engineer if there has been a history of a spill or the aggregate above ground storage capacity is 42,000 gallons or greater. This legislation will now proceed to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
Today, the House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 935, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act which addresses the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for pesticide applications. H.R. 935 clarifies that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act requirements are sufficient regulation for pesticide applications and a duplicative permit under the Clean Water Act is not necessary. During the 112th Congress, the House of Representatives passed another version of the bill, H.R. 872, but the Senate failed to act necessitating a new version of the bill in the 113th Congress.
NAWG supports both pieces of legislation.
TPP Talks Continue With Eyes on Japan
Trade negotiators met last month in Singapore for the latest round of the ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Negotiators announced that they have achieved agreements on landing zones for many chapters of the TPP, but many issues still remain. One major outstanding issue for agriculture, specifically wheat, continues to be Japan’s insistence for special protections on several commodities, including wheat, rice, sugar and certain meat products. In addition to agriculture groups such as NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), 16 Senators, led by Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have also weighed in on the matter by sending a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman calling on Japan to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers for U.S. commodities. Japan is one of the largest export destinations for U.S. wheat annually, especially for growers in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains region. For more information on NAWG’s trade policy visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/trade/.
Dr. Norman Borlaug to be Honored at the Capitol
March 25 marks the 100-year anniversary of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s birth. To celebrate Borlaug’s commitment and achievements in fighting world hunger, the State of Iowa will be unveiling a 7-ft. bronze statue of Dr. Borlaug donated to the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Borlaug’s research on wheat, including development of new wheat varieties and improved crop management, greatly improved wheat production. Because of his achievements it is said that Dr. Borlaug has “saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.” The statue dedication ceremony will take place on Tues., March 25 at 11:00 a.m. EST. Due to limited space at the ceremony, the dedication ceremony will be webcast live at http://www.speaker.gov/live.
Celebrate Ag Day!
Ag Day is celebrated around the country to recognize the contributions of agriculture and to increase public awareness of agriculture’s vital role in our society. Ag Day has been celebrated annually since 1973. For a full list of Ag Day events going on in Washington, D.C. visit http://agday.org/media/pr14.php.
The national premiere of the documentary, The Great American Wheat Harvest, will be shown on Ag Day, March 25, at the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. The documentary celebrates and tells the story of the American wheat harvest. For tickets to the premiere visit http://www.greatamericanwheatharvest.com/.