Senate Committee Checks in on Farm Bill Implementation
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a hearing on Wednesday to monitor U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the 2014 farm bill implementation process. The hearing’s only witness, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, gave a broad overview on progress of the implementation process and what they have accomplished over the last 90 days since the bill was signed into law. Secretary Vilsack mentioned the first major farm bill program that USDA implemented was livestock disaster assistance, which they started accepting signups for on April 15. As of May 1, producers have received $16.3 million in payments. The Secretary also commented on the progress the department is making to enact new Title I programs. With a number of new programs and decisions for growers to make, the department hopes to provide accurate decision tools to help with the process. The Secretary mentioned that the department is currently accepting proposals for farm bill decision aids and outreach tools through Friday, May 9 with an announcement to be made later this month. NAWG is optimistic about the progress USDA has made on the implementation process and look forward to continuing to work with them on issues that directly affect our nation’s wheat farmers. For more information visit http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=farmbill.
Wheat Groups Hold Firm on TPP Stance
As Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations continue, NAWG along with several other agriculture groups continue to call on U.S. trade negotiators to achieve a comprehensive 21st Century trade agreement, including for wheat, which is one of Japan’s five “sacred sectors.” During a recent trip to Japan, President Obama reiterated the American agriculture industry’s concerns by saying, “I’ve been very clear and honest that American manufacturers and farmers need to have meaningful access to markets that are included under TPP, including here in Japan. That’s what will make it a good deal for America.” NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the U.S. wheat industry’s export market development organization, have urged negotiators to take as long as necessary to achieve the ambitious trade goals on market access envisioned by the original TPP members, and have also stated that if that is not achievable, negotiators should consider closing the TPP agreement without Japan’s inclusion and add them at a later date. 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. For more information regarding NAWG’s international trade policy, visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/trade/.
Climate Change Impacts All Regions of the U.S.
A report by the the National Climate Assessment found that climate change is affecting every region of the country. For the first time, The National Climate Assessment examined the effects of climate change on rural communities, as they will face particular obstacles in responding to and preparing for climate change risks. The lengthening of growing seasons and heightened fire risk; combined with drought, storms and insect outbreaks will all threaten America’s food supply and rural economies, according to the report. Drought alone was estimated to cost the U.S. $50 billion from 2011 to 2013. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack released a statement stating, “The Obama Administration continues to take steps to responsibly cut carbon pollution, slow the effects of climate change and support an expanded domestic energy economy. At USDA, we’re working closely with our nation’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them manage the negative impacts of climate change, reduce their energy costs, and grow the bio economy to create jobs in rural America.” For the full report visit http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/sectors/agriculture.
USDA and DOI Announcement on Endangered Species Act
The USDA and the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced this week that farmers, ranchers and landowners that voluntarily participate in Farm Service Agency (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), intended to protect and increase lesser prairie-chicken populations, will not be subject to additional regulations as a result of the species’ listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The population of the lesser prairie-chicken declined to a record low of 17,616 birds last year, almost 50 percent less than the 2012 population estimate, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report. Producers participating in CRP in lesser prairie-chicken states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico) are taking steps to help restore the lesser prairie-chicken population, such as planting native grasses and vegetation to enhance nesting and brooding habitats. Meanwhile, FSA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a Biological Opinion to ensure CRP compliance with Endangered Species Act provisions. This Biological Opinion gives predictability to CRP participants who voluntarily apply protective conservation practices for the lesser prairie-chicken so additional regulations may be unnecessary in the future. This gives agricultural producers using proactive conservation practices confidence that they can maintain traditional farming and ranching activities. The final rule for listing the lesser prairie-chicken will be effective May 12. Visit www.fws.gov/southwest/es/LPC.html to learn more about the threatened lesser prairie-chicken. For more information on NAWG’s policies on conservation visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/sustainability/.
NAWG and USW Attend NAFB Issues Forum
NAWG and USW staff attended the annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) issues forum in Washington, D.C. this week to speak with broadcasters on a variety of issues pertaining to the U.S. wheat industry. The annual NAFB issues forum gives agriculture journalists from around the country an opportunity to visit one-on-one with representatives from different agriculture associations to network and conduct interviews. NAWG and USW, who share a booth at the event, discussed farm bill implementation, trade policy and conservation compliance among other issues. For more information on NAWG’s policies visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/.
US Agriculture at Historic, Pivotal Point
NAWG past president Bing Von Bergen recently submitted an op-ed to the Independent Record on changing farm policy read it here.