NAWG Weekly Update: December 4, 2014

December 4, 2014 Bookmark and Share

House Addresses Tax Extenders Issue
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to address several expired tax policies affecting farmers and ranchers yesterday. The House-passed legislation provides a one-year extension and includes the following pieces relevant to America’s wheat farmers:

  • Extends the Sec. 179 small business deduction of up to $500,000 for new/used equipment (Sec. 127 of the bill);
  • Extends the 50 percent bonus depreciation for the first year on certain property purchased for business use (Sec. 125);
  • Extends the charitable deduction for certain food donations (Sec. 126); and
  • Extends the 50 percent deduction for landowners who give conservation easements to a government agency or land trust entity, and includes the enhanced dedication of up to 100 percent (over 16 years) for certain qualified farmers/ranchers (Sec. 106).

Last week NAWG joined a group of agriculture and business groups in a letter to Members of Congress urging them address the tax policies. The letter can be read in its entirety here.

NAWG Participates in Montana Grain Growers Association Meeting
NAWG Treasurer David Schemm participated in the 59th Annual Montana Grain Growers Association Convention and Trade Show this week in Great Falls, Mt. NAWG Environmental Policy Advisor Keira Franz was also on hand to participate in a panel discussion entitled, “Just Who is Setting Sustainability Standards?” with Bill Harp, General Mills Plant Manager in Great Falls and local wheat producer Will Roehm. Franz’s presentation covered an overview of several sustainability efforts and focused in on NAWG’s participation in Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Bill Harp outlined General Mills’ philosophy and commitments to sustainably source 10 key ingredients by 2020. Will Roehm shared his experience becoming certified to supply sustainable wheat for a local company. As wheat growers discuss sustainability, sustainable wheat production and explore the Fieldprint calculator, your feedback is appreciated. You can reach Keira Franz at the NAWG office at Kfranz@wheatworld.org.

 Congress Prepares for New Food Label Fight
The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which consists of 37 trade groups, including the National Association of Wheat Growers, is gearing up to push for a federal labeling bill introduced earlier this year by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. The bill would require that all new foods containing GMO ingredients being brought to the market must first undergo a review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It would preempt any mandatory state labeling law, because foods would not need to be labeled if FDA deems them to be safe. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Pompeo serves, is expected to hold a hearing on the legislation in December. Legislation has been introduced in over 20 states and more states are gathering signatures for mandatory GMO labeling initiatives next fall. “This is going to continue until we get federal solution,” says coalition consultant Randy Russell. “It’s not going to be easy, but the alternative is a patchwork of state laws that will have a major economic cost and be a threat to the technology itself.” Read the full story here, courtesy of Agri-Pulse.

Senate Ag Committee Meets to Discuss Water Conservation
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow convened a Committee hearing yesterday regarding water conservation. The hearing, “Farmers and Fresh Water: Voluntary Conservation to Protect our Land and Waters” examined different ways farmers and ranchers can help improve water quality in American lakes and rivers through voluntary conservation practices. Testimony by panel witnesses focused on farming’s effects on the health of the nation’s lakes and rivers, and how to avoid such externalities in the future. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller testified regarding the importance of voluntary conservation for protecting and improving our nation’s land and water resources and in particular, NRCS programs’ role in improving water quality. “The voluntary, incentives-based approach is achieving conservation goals across the nation,” said Weller.

Questions from many of the Senators attending the hearing focused on the Administration’s Waters of the U.S. proposal and NRCS’s role in the Interpretive Rule released earlier this year.  NAWG supports federal funding of cooperative programs for voluntary water quality projects. However, NAWG opposes any quality standard that is not scientifically based and economically viable to achieve. The Democrat Senator Stabenow will lose her chairwomanship of the committee when Republicans take up their seats as the new majority in the U.S. Senate on January 3, 2015.  The recently reelected Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is a likely choice to chair the committee come January.

WheatPAC Event Scheduled for 2015 Commodity Classic
WheatPAC, the political action committee of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), will be conducting its annual fundraising event at the 2015 Commodity Classic in Phoenix. The WheatPAC Reception & Auction will be held on Wednesday evening, February 25, from 7:00 – 9:30pm. Participation is restricted to members, staff and industry partners of NAWG and state wheat organizations affiliated with NAWG and their family members. WheatPAC is requesting donations of items by both state wheat organizations and industry partners for both the silent and live auctions. Tickets for the WheatPAC Reception & Auction will be available for purchase through the NAWG Annual Meeting registration webpage and onsite in Phoenix. Stay tuned for additional details.

Administration Delays Decision on Renewable Fuels
Just prior to Thanksgiving, EPA acknowledged that they would not be releasing the final Renewable Volumetric Obligations (RVO) for 2014 prior to the end of the calendar year. EPA released the proposal linked to the Renewable Fuels Standard over a year ago and NAWG filed comments in January 2014 expressing concern over the proposal. Last month NAWG joined several commodity groups in asking that the President become involved in the decisions on the RVO. The delay announced by EPA is seen as a good sign that they are reconsidering the proposal and will hopefully make changes to address our concerns. The revised proposal will also include additional years, setting requirements for 2014-2016.

Apply for the NWF Jerry Minore Scholarship
The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) has partnered with BASF to award four scholarships, on behalf of the Minore Memorial Scholarship, for college students who have a personal connection to the wheat industry and a planned career path in the agriculture industry.

The scholarship is named in honor of Jerry Minore, who was a longtime friend of the wheat industry and an advocate for wheat farmers. To honor Jerry’s life and work, the Minore Memorial Scholarship will fund two $1,500 scholarships and two $1,000 scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year.

The scholarship application and eligibility requirements can be found here.