Editor’s Note: NAWG’s Washington offices will be closed Monday, Sept. 2, for Labor Day celebrations. We wish all of our readers a happy and safe holiday!
Debt Ceiling Again Looming, Congress Gears Up for a Fight
The Treasury Department told Congress this week that the federal government will hit its borrowing limit by mid-October, setting up an ideological and fiscal fight about the debt ceiling during the September work period. The anticipated deadline is earlier than previously estimated, though when the government runs out of money is impossible to predict to the day. A showdown between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic Obama Administration would be just one of many in recent years on the issue, which has become one of the most volatile and symbolic fiscal debates in Washington. Republicans typically call for reducing spending as part of any debt ceiling deal, while President Barack Obama has indicated he will no longer be willing to tie the debt issue to any other decision making, including overall spending levels.
Senators Seek Clarification on EPA’s SPCC Intentions
Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) wrote Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy last week seeking clarification about if the Agency believes it can enforce Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations on farms retroactively following the expiration of a 180-day stay of the rule that ends Sept. 22. Farmers and ranchers had been required to put SPCC-related plans and equipment in place by May 10 of this year following several delays of the regulations’ implementation because of concerns EPA has not effectively communicated the requirements. These concerns still linger, and Congress delayed the rule again in a continuing resolution passed this spring. Once that exemption expires, farmers could be required to have SPCC plans in place unless new legislation is passed modifying the permanent rule as it relates to farms. A bill to do that, the FUELS Act, has been incorporated into the House version of the farm bill; similar language is also in a pending water resources measure. Inhofe’s and Pryor’s letter is at www.inhofe.senate.gov/download/?id=eb618db1-b94a-481c-85d1-6e9a40a5d593&download=1. More on SPCC from EPA is at http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/content/spcc/spcc_ag.htm.
Latest Round of TPP Negotiations Ongoing
The current round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a multilateral trade agreement between countries in North and South America, Asia and the South Pacific, began on Aug. 22 and will end Aug. 30. Many of the specifics in trade negotiations are not initially made public, but trade representatives have reaffirmed their desire to finish the multilateral trade agreement this year. U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman also said that trade ministers will be more involved in negotiations moving forward and will likely meet again in October. Access to Japan, a top U.S. wheat customer, is of particular interest to wheat farmers. However, U.S. negotiators will not be able to pursue certain conditions, such as market access, with Japanese officials until final review of a recently-completed report from the International Trade Commission. NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates will continue to monitor negotiations as they occur. More information on TPP can be found at www.ustr.gov.
New 2014 Prairie Pothole Prevented Planting Rules Announced by RMA
USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced this week a clarification to prevented planting crop insurance provisions for what is known as the Prairie Pothole region, following pressure from the local Congressional delegations and producers. The new guidelines include eliminating the “normal weather” provision to allow a producer who plants and harvests a crop one out of four years, regardless of the weather situation, to be eligible for prevented plant coverage. Previous rules defining normal weather conditions were up for subjective interpretation, leaving many growers uncertain about how they could use those years to qualify for prevented plant insurance. The new rules also remove a provision regarding the presence of so-called “marsh vegetation.” These new rules will go into effect for the 2014 crop year. More about the changes from RMA is at http://www.rma.usda.gov/news/2013/08/prairiepothole.pdf.
Climate Change Back on the Agenda for Administration, Congress
Official Washington seems to be delving back into the issue of climate change. In June, President Barack Obama announced a new “Climate Action Plan” in a well-publicized speech followed by release of a 21-page policy proposal. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has set a hearing on the issue for Sept. 18, inviting the heads of 13 federal agencies, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, to testify about activities related to the climate change agenda. Meanwhile, USDA released a report this week on scientific methods for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions on farms and forest land, requesting public comment within 45 days of the official notice in the Federal Register. The full report and information about commenting are available at USDA’s climate change-focused website page, www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/index.htm. More about the Obama Administration climate plan is at www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan.
Special Thanks to North Dakota, Montana Grain Growers Staff and Farmers
NAWG’s Director of Government Affairs for Risk Management Brooke Shupe and Director of Communications Melissa Kessler were warmly welcomed by both the North Dakota Grain Growers Association (NDGGA) and the Montana Grain Growers Association (MGGA) on a recent tour of northern wheat states. Dan Wogsland and Sheena Kambeitz from NDGGA and Lola Raska from MGGA spent significant time and effort showing the NAWG staff around, making it possible visit 10 farms, an elevator, a mill, an energy plant, a grain testing lab and more in just a week’s time. Photos from the tour are available online at www.facebook.com/wheatworld. Many, many thanks to our state staff and farmers!
Bread Bites: Recipes to Help You Celebrate Labor Day with Grains
Wheat is an amazing crop, and wheat foods are some of the most delicious humans have been able to invent. Several wheat organizations offer new and inventive recipes, including the Wheat Foods Council at http://www.wheatfoods.org/recipes; the Grain Foods Foundation at http://www.gowiththegrain.org/recipes/; and the National Pasta Association at http://www.ilovepasta.org/resource-center/recipes. Many wheat commissions also offer recipes, sometimes tailored to the type of wheat most often grown in the local area. A list of commissions is available from U.S. Wheat Associates at http://www.uswheat.org/usWheat/commissions.