NAWG Weekly Update: April 9, 2015

NAWG Applauds CFTC for Addressing Possible Wheat Market Manipulation
Last week, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) charged Kraft Foods Group, Inc. and Mondelēz Global LLC with manipulation and attempted manipulation of the prices of cash wheat and wheat futures. The complaint, filed on April 1 with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that the two companies also violated speculative position limits established by the CFTC and the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), and engaged in numerous noncompetitive trades in CBOT wheat. According to a statement released by the CFTC, the actions of these two organizations in December 2011 did result in market price shifts, lowering cash wheat prices and strengthening the spread between December 2011 and March 2012 wheat futures, which made the companies more than $5.4 million in profits. NAWG is concerned about potential manipulation in the wheat market that negatively impacts our wheat growers. “Our growers operate on low margins and even pennies per bushel difference in market price can make a big difference to a farmer’s bottom line. We must be able to trust the markets, and anything that violates that trust takes away one of our tools for managing risk,” said NAWG President Brett Blankenship, a wheat farmer from Washtucna, Wash. NAWG will continue to monitor this case and provide our members with relevant updates.

Hapag-Lloyd Stops Service Out of Port of Portland
The Oregonian reported earlier this week that Hapag-Lloyd, which had been the second largest carrier at the Port of Portland, will be stopping its business. This news comes about a month after Hanjin Shipping Company stopped its container business with the port. A subsequent story by KGW news provides additional information about the potential fallout for the agriculture industry from these announcements. NAWG is following developments closely, particularly as Congress must reauthorize the Federal Grain Inspection Service, the authorization for which expires on September 30, 2015.

House Agriculture Committee to Review CFTC, SNAP, Hear from 4-H
The House Agriculture Committee will hold several hearings next week, including one of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research to hear a presentation by participants of the National 4-H Conference who will talk about the future of agriculture. The hearing will take place April 14, 2015, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. The Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit will hold a hearing to prepare for reauthorization of the CFTC where the Subcommittee will gather input from the commissioners at 10:00 a.m. on April 14. Finally, the full committee will hold a hearing on April 15, 2015, entitled “The Past, Present and Future of SNAP: The World of Nutrition and the Role of the Charitable Sector.” All hearings can be streamed online at this link.

NAWG Participates in Scoping Meeting on the Monarch Butterfly
NAWG joined a list of diverse organizations that met April 6-7 in St. Paul, Minn., to discuss the need for more collaboration and public-private partnerships on monarch butterfly recovery and conservation efforts. Various farm organizations, farmers, technology providers, government agencies, monarch researchers and conservation organizations were present to learn about current research and efforts for monarch recovery and how to better partner with agriculture to achieve recovery goals.

Many actionable ideas resulted from the meeting on how to move forward with public-private partnerships and leverage existing efforts to accelerate monarch recovery efforts. These included changes to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) requirements to facilitate milkweed in CRP programs, establish shared messaging and communications for reaching farmers about the need and opportunities for contributing to monarch recovery, and establishing a five-year agricultural strategy for a greater vision, coordination and action on monarch recovery. There was also recognition of the need to work with existing partnerships and have an overall agricultural strategy be part of broader recovery and conservation efforts.

The meeting was convened and facilitated by Keystone Policy Center that will establish a smaller but representative steering committee that will be tasked with determining next steps, a stakeholder engagement plan and governance going forward.

The Word on Wheat: “The Truth About Pasta”
Between fad diets and the onslaught of nutritional misinformation, carbohydrates – specifically breads and pasta – have been getting a bad rap among health-conscious consumers. While tips about healthy eating, good nutrition and exercise are helpful, too often carbohydrates fall victim to unhealthy claims, such as “Carbs make you fat.” The truth is carbohydrates are actually a key nutrient and an important component of a healthy diet. To address these false claims and promote the many healthful benefits of carbohydrates, the International Pasta Organization has launched a new initiative called “The Truth About Pasta.” The initiative aims to connect consumers with fact-based information and healthy pasta meal recipes.

In addition to nutritional information, the “Truth About Pasta” initiative also shares the sustainability story of pasta. In addition to being a healthy choice for consumers, pasta is also one of the more environmentally friendly and sustainable food products. It is one of the least intensive foods to produce and has a small carbon footprint from farm to table as compared to other foods. Research published in Ecosystems found that grains, like the wheat used to make pasta, use only 0.51 liters of water to produce one calorie of food. Learn more about the “Truth About Pasta” initiative here.