House Appropriations Committee Advances FY 2016 Ag Spending Bill
The House Appropriations Committee considered and approved its version of the FY 2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill on Wednesday, July 8. The bill contains about $143.9 billion in both discretionary and mandatory spending, which is $3.2 billion below the President’s budget request. Within that spending is about $20.65 billion in discretionary spending, which is about $175 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill was approved by voice vote.
As the Appropriations Committee began the process to prepare FY 2016 Appropriations bills, NAWG submitted a request to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which included a request to fully fund the Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. The bill included report language recognizing that fusarium head blight is a major threat to agriculture and indicating the Committee’s support for the research carried out through the Initiative.
The bill includes reductions to Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation programs, decreasing funding for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program by $300 million and decreasing the annual enrollment of new acres into the Conservation Stewardship Program by 2.259 million acres. A policy provision delaying the enforcement of the Conservation Compliance link to crop insurance for the 2016 reinsurance year was also included in the bill.
During Committee consideration of the legislation, the Committee rejected several amendments that could have affected farm programs and the crop insurance program. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) offered an amendment that would’ve required that payments under the commodity certificate program, which would be reactivated under the bill, be subject to the overall $125,000 payment limitation included in the 2014 Farm Bill. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) offered an amendment to prohibit crop insurance premium support for producers with more than $750,000 in Adjusted Gross Income. And Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment that would have removed the prohibition on the disclosure of recipients of crop insurance premium support. Each of these amendments were rejected by voice vote.
USDA Offers Margin Protection Plan
On Wednesday, USDA announced that it would begin offering a new margin protection plan for some crops during the 2016 crop year, including spring wheat for select counties in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The intent of the program is to help producers protect against unexpected decreases in operating margins. According to the announcement, the margin protection plan can be purchased by itself or in conjunction with the Yield Protection or Revenue Protection Policy. The last day to purchase the margin protection policy will be September 30, 2015. Additional information about the announcement can be found here.
U.S. International Food Aid Programs: Oversight and Accountability
The House Agriculture Committee continued its hearing series of U.S. international food aid program reviews today by focusing specifically on the organizational management and resulting outcomes of the government agencies tasked with running the programs. Strengthening financial oversight, providing accurate records and monitoring efficiencies would allow Congress and American agriculture to distribute food into the hands of people who need it the most.
In efforts to prepare for the next farm bill, the subcommittee was interested to learn about the implementation of the changes made to food aid program in the 2014 Farm Bill. Specifically discussing the use of cash, vouchers and local and regional procurement in addition to agency accountability. NAWG continues to support in-kind food aid as one of the tools to be used in food aid. While many members showed support in keeping food in food aid as, the subcommittee and witnesses both agreed that in order to successfully implement the international food aid programs, serious internal improvements must be made to continue the distribution of in-kind and cash-based systems.
Applications for 2015 WILOT Program Due Sept. 18
The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) is now accepting applications for the 2015 Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow (WILOT) program, scheduled for November 14-19, 2015. WILOT is an annual program designed for 10 wheat growers from across the country that want to become involved in state wheat grower association and state wheat commission leadership. Workshops at the 2015 event will focus on the structure and priorities of the wheat industry, agricultural policy and economics, as well as leadership, media and advocacy training. The NWF WILOT leadership development program is funded by NWF industry partner, Monsanto, and is held in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to the outstanding educational sessions, this program also gives participants the opportunity to visit Monsanto labs and talk with researchers working on wheat innovation. Growers interested in the program should review and complete the application here. All completed applications are due to Preston Millard (firstname.lastname@example.org) by September 18, 2015.
White House Calls for Update to Biotech Framework
Last Thursday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) sent a memo to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USDA calling for the three agencies to update the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, develop a long-term strategy to ensure that the system is prepared for the future products of biotechnology, and commission an expert analysis of the future landscape of biotechnology products to support this effort. The Framework, issued in 1986 and updated in 1992, outlines a comprehensive Federal regulatory policy for ensuring the safety of biotechnology products. The White House memo can be read here.
As the Administration works through the process to update the Coordinated Framework, they will seek public input by hosting three engagement sessions around the country. The first listening session will occur in Washington, D.C. in fall 2015. In addition, the update to the Coordinated Framework will undergo public notice and comment before it is finalized.