NAWG Update: April 16, 2015

USDA Issues Conservation Compliance Rule
On Thursday, April 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted its final conservation compliance rule for federal crop insurance premium support. It is available here for review and will be officially published in the Federal Register next week, followed by a 60-day public comment period. NAWG staff joined others from the agriculture and conservation community at a recent briefing conducted jointly by the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service to discuss the rule.

USDA officials stressed that June 1 is the deadline for submitting the AD-1026 form, which certifies that the producer will not:

  • Plant or produce an agricultural commodity on highly erodible land without following an NRCS approved conservation plan or system;
  • Plant or produce an agricultural commodity on a converted wetland; or
  • Convert a wetland that makes the production of an agricultural commodity possible.

NAWG will thoroughly review the rule and determine what comments may be needed on behalf of America’s wheat growers. We encourage members to provide input to us with any issues you would like to see reflected in our comments. Individuals can also submit comments and instructions for doing so will be available in the Federal Register posting next week.

Wheat Growers Support Quick Passage of TPA Legislation
The U.S. wheat industry applauds bipartisan support for the introduction of legislation to modernize and renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 includes improvements to the 2002 TPA law that are key to establishing the groundwork for progressive trade negotiations and outcomes for U.S. farmers and businesses.

“Trade is vital to the U.S. wheat industry with 50 percent of the annual crop destined for export markets. U.S. farmers are eager to sell high-quality wheat throughout the world, but artificial trade barriers often stand in their way,” said NAWG President, Brett Blankenship.

The TPA legislation outlines U.S. trade policy objectives and sets out conditions for the president to negotiate free trade agreements and other trade liberalizing initiatives as well as allowing for expedited congressional consideration. Also known as “fast track,” TPA builds confidence with our negotiating partners that once an agreement is reached, Congress cannot change it. The bill also institutionalizes consultation requirements to ensure that Congress and the president maintain a strong partnership in advancing trade policy goals. In a statement issued today, NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates encouraged the swift enactment of TPA as an essential tool for negotiating market opening free trade agreements.

House Committee Approves WOTUS bill              
On Wednesday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved legislation directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to scrap the proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation and develop a new regulation. H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, was introduced earlier this week by committee Chairman Bill Shuster. The bill will now proceed to the full House of Representatives for consideration. NAWG supported H.R. 1732, sending a letter of support to Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) on Monday.

The committee’s action is in response to the administration’s efforts to finalize the proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation. EPA submitted the final regulation to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. OMB can take up to 90 days to review the final regulation, but they are not required to take the entire time allowed.

NAWG Outlines Tax Reform Priorities
The Senate Finance Committee is soliciting input for comprehensive tax reform priorities from interested organizations. Earlier this week, NAWG joined a broad coalition of farm and general agricultural groups that sent a letter to the committee outlining the importance of several tax provisions that should be addressed during this process. Specifically, the letter urges Congress to restore the maximum amount of expensing under Section 179 to $500,000 (indexed for inflation) and to make Section 179 expensing permanent. Additionally, the letter urges against reducing the number of farms eligible to use cash accounting, discourages any increase in capital gains rates and discusses the importance the 1031 Like-Kind Exchange provision. This letter complements NAWG’s other efforts to eliminate the estate tax.

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Talks Food Aid
On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing themed “American Food Aid: Why Reform Matters.” The committee heard from witnesses that support food aid reform and increased flexibility in the Food for Peace program.

During the hearing, Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) expressed his commitment to reform food aid and allow more flexibility for Food for Peace, pointing to the reintroduced bill he co-sponsored with Senator Coons titled “Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015.” Many senators voiced their support for food aid reform and more flexibility. Ranking Member Cardin agreed that helping the hungry is important and also shared his concerns on the affects such an aggressive bill may have on various industries, especially maritime. During testimony and questions, Dina Esposito, director of the Office of Food for Peace, used many examples to illustrate the need for flexibility. U.S. commodity groups were mentioned several times, specifically those comprised of wheat growers. However, the significance of U.S. commodity support and contributions to Food for Peace were overshadowed by the idea of reform. The full testimony and hearing can be found here.

House Passes Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015
On Thursday, April 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 (H.R. 1105). The legislation passed on a vote of 240-179. This legislation would permanently repeal the estate tax. NAWG applauds passage of the legislation and has advocated for the Senate to also act against the estate tax.

Senate Agriculture Committee to Address Trade With Cuba
The Senate Agriculture Committee will be holding a hearing on Tuesday, April 21, at 10:00 a.m. EST about opportunities and challenges for agricultural trade with Cuba. The hearing will kickoff with testimony by administration officials from USDA, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Treasury, followed by a panel of producers, including Doug Keesling, a wheat farmer from Kansas. Information on the hearing can be found here.