NAWG Weekly Update: December 10, 2015

Congress Completes Action on STB Reform Bill; Heads to President
Today the U.S. House of Representatives approved S. 808—the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015. This action follows the Senate passing the legislation by unanimous consent in June. NAWG President Brett Blankenship thanked the House for taking this action, saying, “I applaud the House for following the Senate’s lead in passing this important legislation, and I thank Chairman Thune for writing these reforms to the functioning of the Surface Transportation Board.”

This legislation, authored by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL), contains several important changes to the structure of the STB, including an increase in its members from three to five members; transparency requirements to ensure the reporting of the nature and disposition of complaints considered by the Board; the establishment of a voluntary arbitration process to resolve disputes; and the new ability of the Board to initiate investigations without having to wait for a formal complaint to be filed.

The bill now heads to the President for his signature.

White House Seeks to Raise the Profile of Careers in Agriculture
The Office of the President of the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) together hosted a meeting last week at the White House to explore solutions aimed at increasing the profile of agriculture among college students. NAWG joined 140 attendees from all parts of U.S. agriculture—including representatives from land grant colleges, private industry, commodity associations, National FFA and 4-H and more—to provide insight in how to best address the issue.

Officials from the Department of Education presented data for 2015 showing 57,900 agricultural jobs were posted but only 35,400 qualified graduates were available to apply. The USDA and the DOE showed the demand for multi-disciplinary degrees for agriculture will only increase as the industry is challenged to produce more food in a time of increasing weather effects from climate change. This job demand is also expected to multiply simultaneously as the baby boomers enter retirement age. The workforce challenge facing agriculture over the next several decades is significant and all the agencies represented at the event stressed the need to encourage young students entering college to consider pursuing technical degrees in agriculture.

NAWG Participates in Industry Sustainability Event
Last week, NAWG participated in a session with General Mills Supply Chain Executive Vice President John Church regarding wheat sustainability during a side event at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. The event—co-hosted by Field to Market and BSR—brought together representatives from wheat, corn, soy and potatoes grower organizations and food companies working on sustainability projects.

NAWG Environmental Policy Advisor Keira Franz presented on behalf of wheat growers at the event, discussing wheat production and profitability, stressing the importance of continued investment in research and highlighting wheat growers’ sustainability efforts.

Secretary Vilsack kicked off the event by highlighting the important work of Field to Market and discussing information USDA was releasing later in the day regarding climate and agriculture. As part of the Administration’s commitment on climate change, USDA has agreed to reduce agricultural emissions and enhance carbon sequestration of 120 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent each year by 2025. USDA’s crop efforts will focus on using voluntary incentive-based programs and practices to improve soil health, nutrient stewardship and conservation of sensitive lands and several other efforts focused on livestock, grazing lands and forest lands.

For more information regarding NAWG’s sustainability efforts, please visit https://www.wheatworld.org/issues/sustainability/.

Auction Items Needed for 2016 WheatPAC Event
WheatPAC, the political action committee of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), will be conducting its annual fundraising event at the 2016 Commodity Classic in New Orleans. The WheatPAC Reception & Auction will be held on Wednesday, March 2, from 7:00 – 10:00pm. 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. For ideas about top-selling items, more information, or to become a NAWG member so you can attend the event, please contact Liz Leith at finance@wheatworld.org. Tickets for the WheatPAC Reception & Auction will be available for purchase through the NAWG Annual Meeting registration webpage and onsite in New Orleans. Stay tuned for additional details.

Last Call for Scholarship Applications
Applications must be submitted this week for the Minore Memorial Scholarship. Students with connections to the wheat industry who are planning careers in agriculture can apply for one of four scholarships for the 2016-2017 academic year. Click here for additional information, including eligibility information and instructions for applying.