WRRDA Bill Passes in Congress
Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 with an overwhelming 412-4 vote in the House on Tuesday and 91-7 vote in the Senate today. NAWG now looks forward to President Obama signing the bill in law. “NAWG is pleased with the passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014,” said NAWG President Paul Penner, a wheat farmer from Hillsboro, Kan., “The near unanimous support the bill received in both the House and Senate signals how vital our inland waterways system is; both to America’s wheat farmers, who export nearly half the wheat that is grown domestically, and to our nation’s economy as a whole.” WRRDA seeks to increase funding for waterway development projects, such as deepening waterways and lock and dam repairs and upgrades. The bill is especially important to America’s wheat farmers, who rely on many inland waterways to ship their wheat to port before being exported abroad. For more information on NAWG’s Transportation Policy, visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/transportation/.
Appropriations Bills Released
On Tuesday, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittees on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies considered bills to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The proposed legislation provided $20.9 billion in discretionary funding to USDA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies, which is equal to the FY 2014 enacted level. Including both discretionary and mandatory funding for various nutrition programs, the overall bill totals $142.5 billion, which is $1.5 billion below the President’s request and $3 billion below the FY 2014 enacted level. Discretionary funding alone in the bill is $20.9 billion, the same as the FY 2014 enacted level.
The House bill provides $2.65 billion for agriculture research programs, including $1.12 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and $1.274 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, approximately equal to the FY 2014 enacted funding level.
The House bill provides $869 million for conservation programs – $43 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. For the text of the subcommittee draft bill, visit http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-113hr-sc-ap-fy2015-agriculture- subcommitteedraft.pdf.
The Senate bill provides total funding of $20.575 billion for Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies for FY 2015, including $100 million in disaster relief spending. Discretionary funding is $90 million below the FY 2014 enacted level but $228 million above the budget request. The bill provides $1.139 billion for ARS, which is $17 million above FY 2014 and $1.292 billion for NIFA, which is $15 million above FY 2014. This amount includes $325 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, $244 million for Hatch Act and $300 million for Smith-Lever funding. The bill also provides $11.7 million for the Emergency Conservation Program. These funds are provided out of the subcommittee allocation and will help producers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.
Both the House and Senate bill fully funded the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) at $200 million and $34.5 million, respectively. On food aid, both bills continue Food for Peace funding at the same level as last year ($1.466 billion), which is $66 million above the Administration’s request.
NAWG is pleased that funding levels for multiple programs important to wheat growers have been maintained in the bills.
NAWG Attends CropLife America’s National Policy Conference
NAWG President Paul Penner and several NAWG staff attended CropLife America’s 5th Annual National Policy Conference on Cultural Shifts in Agriculture at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. this week. This year’s theme, “The Devolution of AgriCULTURE,” sought to inspire a thoughtful and balanced discussion of the future of agriculture and its ability to adapt and meet consumer, environmental and regulatory demands. Panelists included leaders in agriculture, media, and sustainability. For more information on the conference, visit http://www.croplifeamerica.org/National-Policy-Conference-2014.
Importance of Trade Highlighted During World Trade Week
President Barak Obama proclaimed May 18-24, 2014 as World Trade Week. Throughout the week business leaders, agricultural companies, farmers and workers have shared their stories on the importance of trade for their business ventures in order to be successful and survive. In addition, leaders are reiterating the importance of updating the Trade Promotion Authority’s (TPA) negotiation guidelines, which will strengthen the U.S. economy as well as address important issues pertaining to trade negotiations. U.S. wheat exports stand at about 3.1 million metric tons per year on a five-year average, representing over 60 percent of its total annual wheat imports. For more information on NAWG’s trade policy, visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/trade/.
USDA Flexibility of New Whole-Grain Pasta Served in School Cafeterias
The USDA announced they will work with school districts across the country to create flexibility in serving whole-grain pastas to children in school lunchrooms. Representatives from USDA said they would work with schools in phasing in the new standards at a gradual rate, rather than forcing schools to comply promptly with the new whole-grain requirements. The decision was reached after school districts voiced their concerns about the scarcity of acceptable approved whole-grain-rich pasta products. The USDA stated, “whole-grain-rich pastas made from blends of whole grains and enriched flour maintain better consistency, but these products are still emerging in the marketplace.” Click here to read more about USDA’s decision on this issue.