NAWG Weekly Update: April 17, 2014

President Obama Endorses Biotechnology in Agriculture
A personal letter from President Barack Obama to Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of Dr. Norman Borlaug, in which he clearly states his support for the use of biotechnology in agriculture, was made public this week. In the letter, sent to Ms. Borlaug following the unveiling of a statue of her grandfather in the U.S. Capitol for his lifelong dedication to fighting hunger worldwide, President Obama wrote that he shares Dr. Borlaug’s “belief that investment in enhanced biotechnology is an essential component of the solution to some of our planet’s most pressing agricultural problems.” The letter represents President Obama’s clearest endorsement of biotechnology since he entered into office and comes at a time when the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food has been in the news with the introduction of legislation from Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) that would establish a voluntary federal labeling standard for foods and beverages made with GMOs by affirming FDA as the nation’s authority for the use and labeling of GMO ingredients. While no biotech wheat is currently available for commercial use, NAWG remains committed to exploring the use of biotechnology as an option for U.S. wheat farmers. NAWG also supports industry efforts to ensure these safe and effective products continue to be readily available for use by America’s farmers. For more on NAWG’s stance on biotechnology visit

Click here to read the full article by Agri-Pulse who originally obtained the letter from President Obama to Julie Borlaug. If you would like to express your support for the President acknowledging the value of agricultural biotechnology visit

Railway Issues Discussed at Public Hearing
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) held a public hearing last week to listen to rail shippers concerns about service issues in the northern plains states. Testimony was heard from many different shippers including farmers, grain handlers, chemical manufacturers and others, in addition to representatives from the Canadian Pacific (CP) and BNSF railways. Bob Wisness, President of the North Dakota Grain Growers, testified on behalf of wheat farmers, citing the lack of crop storage capacity as a major issue if the past year’s crop is not shipped before the next harvest season in a few months.

Another immediate concern brought up by several panelists was the disruption of fertilizer shipments and the adverse affect that would have on the upcoming planting season. Following the hearing, the STB issued an order to the CP and BNSF instructing them to report their plans to deliver fertilizer shipments for spring planting of U.S. crops to the STB by April 18. The STB also directed CP and BNSF to provide weekly status reports over the next six weeks, beginning April 25, regarding the delivery of fertilizer on their respective networks. These status reports will also include delivery data, by state, indicating the number of cars, shipped or received, which are billed to agricultural destinations and the number of cars placed during each prior week as well as performance versus trip plan data for fertilizer shipments. For more information on NAWG’s rail policy visit

NAWG Attends Meeting on Big Data
NAWG President Paul Penner and NAWG Secretary-Treasurer David Schemm attended a meeting on big data last Thursday in Kansas City hosted by the American Farm Bureau Federation. Thursday’s meeting was attended by a collection of equipment and seed companies as well as representation from commodity groups. NAWG leadership felt that the dialogue at the meeting brought on many good questions and valuable conversation between the groups. The meeting was a clear indication of the opportunities that proper management of data holds for agriculture across the board. NAWG believes continuing the dialogue is key to the success of this emerging technology for decades to come.

Senate Agriculture Committee Reviews Biofuels
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a hearing on advanced biofuels and the role developing non-food based biofuels are playing in creating jobs and strengthening the rural economy. In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Stabenow stated, “To continue growing this industry, we need policies that support it. This Committee and Congress took an important first step by passing the farm bill with funding for the Energy Title, now we need to provide certainty through a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and tax credits to support long term investments in our energy future.” The Committee heard from several representatives from the biofuels industry, including former stock-car driver and NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, who discussed the success of the RFS and the successful use of ethanol and E15 in NASCAR with no reported engine conditions or increased maintenance issues stating, “The fuel has increased horsepower while decreasing emissions by 20 percent”. Brooke Colemen, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Coalition (AEC) discussed the importance of the RFS, tax incentives and the farm bill energy title for biofuels to create and maintain consistent policies to drive innovation in the biofuels sector. AEC focuses on the development and commercialization of next generation ethanol fuels such as cellulosic ethanol made from swtichgrass and agricultural waste. NAWG supports the RFS, E15 and transition programs that encourage the development of biomass dedicated energy crops.

NAWG Seeks Summer Intern
NAWG is seeking sophomores, juniors or seniors in college interested in gaining real-world experience in policy development through an internship in Washington, D.C. Applicants can expect a NAWG internship to provide a well balanced, unique-to-D.C. experience in the day-to-day operations of an agricultural advocacy organization. From offices in the Wheat Growers Building on Capitol Hill, NAWG’s staff members are in constant contact with state association representatives, NAWG grower-leaders, Members of Congress, Congressional staff members and the public. Selected individuals will assist the government affairs department and other office departments as needed. For more information about the NAWG internship program visit