NAWG Releases Statement on TPP Negotiations
NAWG, U.S. Wheat Associates and several other agriculture organizations released a joint statement on Wednesday expressing their frustrations with Japan’s reluctance to fully liberalize their “sacred” agriculture sectors, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which include wheat, barley, pork, beef, sugar, rice and dairy. The groups noted that Japan is not honoring its own promise “to pursue an agreement that is comprehensive and ambitious in all areas, eliminating tariffs and other barriers to trade and investment,” they agreed to when they joined the TPP negotiations. The affected groups also outlined reservations about the precedent the negotiations could set for the future, saying “the broad exemption that Japan is demanding will encourage other partner countries to withhold their sensitive sectors as well.” Lastly, the statement called on U.S. negotiators to continue pushing Japan for meaningful market access, but noted that if that was not possible, they should consider “suspending negotiations with Japan for now and concluding a truly comprehensive agreement with those TPP partners that are willing to meet the originally contemplated level of ambition.”
Japan currently relies on global imports of about 5 million metric tons per year to meet total wheat food demand and has purchased significantly more U.S. wheat than any country in the world. 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. To read the statement in full, visit: http://www.wheatworld.org/news-events/2014/05/statement-on-tpp-negotiations/.
USDA Announces Funding for Online Decision Tools and Training
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today they will award the $6 million in funds provided in the farm bill to universities and cooperative state extension services to develop online decision tools as well as training tools for experts to educate producers about several provisions of the new farm bill. These web-based tools with help farmers make choices between Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. The National Coalition for Producer Education (NCPE), lead by the University of Illinois, and the National Association of Agricultural and Food Policy (NAAFP), co-lead by Texas A&M and the University of Missouri, will both play a role in developing the ARC and PLC programs. The NCPE will also work on the development of the new Market Protection Program for Dairy and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. NAWG is pleased that USDA has made this important announcement, which shows progress on the implementation of these very important programs. To read the announcement from USDA and get a full list of Universities and extensions involved please go to USDA’s website here:http://1.usa.gov/1nyp9Am
House Appropriations Discuss Ag Spending
The House Appropriations Committee met today to mark up a draft of the FY15 spending bill for agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. This version was almost completely unchanged from the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee bill that was approved last week. Report language from the House bill covering the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research directs USDA not to expend any funds except those related to the appointment of members of the board and the preparation of by-laws, conflict of interest policies and standards of conduct until the Committee receives and approves these documents. The Committee set a deadline of the end of 2014 to obtain these documents and expressed concern that matching funds must be secured before the CCC funds are released. Both the House and Senate bills will now go to the floor for further consideration.
NAWG Requests Additional Time to Comment on EPA’s Waters of the U.S. Regulation
Yesterday NAWG joined over 70 other agriculture organizations to request an extension of the public comment period for Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the U.S. regulation. EPA released the proposal in April with a 90- day comment period and a 45- day comment period on an accompanying interpretative rule linked to exclusions for the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) conservation practices. Yesterday’s letter asked for an extension of both comment periods and additionally requests that EPA consider extension of the comment period until after the release of the Connectivity Report currently under review by EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board. EPA’s proposed regulation adds provisions to include “other waters” as jurisdictional on a case-by-case basis based on having a significant nexus to otherwise jurisdictional waters. The proposal also includes new definitions for floodplains and tributaries, which would be jurisdictional waters under the Clean Water Act and significant nexus. NAWG is currently working to develop comments on the proposed regulation. To view the full letter visit: http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Ag-WOTUS-Comment-Extension.pdf.
USDA Announces Regional Conservation Partnership Program
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding for the regional conservation partnership program (RCPP) this week. RCPP is a new conservation program created in the 2014 Farm Bill that is based on the goals of the previous Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, the Great Lakes Basin Program for Sediment and Erosion Control, the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program and the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Program. Agriculture associations are eligible entities to submit applications for projects working directly with growers and addressing conservation activities in a specific regional or watershed areas. Projects could address such as water quality, water quantity, drought, water retention, habitat, and air quality. Conservation assistance for growers is delivered through the Environmental Quality Assistance Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and the Healthy Forest Reserve Program. Initial applications are due July 14, 2014. Additional information can be found at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/farmbill/rcpp/.
Campaign Season is Upon Us
The 2014 campaign season is in full swing, with primaries and run-offs already taking place across the country. Rep. Ralph Hall, (R-Tex.), the oldest person to serve in the House at age 91, lost his bid for an 18th term Tuesday night. This loss serves as the first for an incumbent in the 2014 mid-term cycle. Texas attorney John Ratcliffe defeated Hall with 52 percent of the vote and help from tea party groups such as Club for Growth, the Madison Project and Senate Conservatives Fund. Last week, in the Georgia GOP Senate primary, businessman David Perdue and current Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) advanced to a runoff for the state GOP nomination to fill the Senator Saxby Chambliss’ spot. The runoff is set for June 22nd and the winner will take on Democrat Michelle Nunn. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) also faced a primary last week, which resulted in an easy win for the current Senate minority leader. Despite the support from tea party groups such as Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison project, McConnell’s opponent, Matt Bevin, only received 36% of the vote. McConnell will go on to face current Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election this fall.
Waters Advocacy Coalition Reviews Waters of U.S.
The Waters Advocacy Coalition released a report this week reviewing the economic assumptions by the EPA in the proposed regulation on Waters of the U.S. The report, conducted by an economist at the University of California-Berkeley indicated that the proposed regulation failed to fully consider the economic impacts on businesses and those impacted by the regulation. To view the full report visit: http://www.nssga.org/economist-reviews-epas-economic-analysis-proposed-waters-united-states-rule/.