NAWG Weekly Update February 5, 2015

NAWG Joins Fellow Ag Groups in Letter to Congress Regarding Proposed Crop Insurance Cuts
The National Association of Wheat Growers this week signed a letter to the House and Senate Budget Committees Chairs and Ranking Members, voicing concerns over the President’s proposed budget cuts to some elements of crop insurance. The group of more than 30 concerned agricultural organizations, representing the spectrum of crops, seeks to highlight the importance of the crop insurance provision of the Farm Bill and to illustrate that affordable and consistent crop insurance can save consumers money and help farmers recover from weather disasters.

Here’s an excerpt:
“The agriculture community is committed to the belief that balancing the Federal budget is important, which is why the industry supported the passage just last year of a farm bill that was estimated to reduce the deficit by $16.6 billion.  Additionally, crop insurance has been contributing more than $1.2 billion a year towards reducing government spending since the 2008 Farm Bill.

“Therefore, we strongly oppose the President’s budget proposal to make crippling cuts to crop insurance. Attacking farmers’ most important risk management tool only weakens the farm safety net in the bipartisan Farm Bill that Congress carefully crafted after years of deliberation and more than 40 hearings.

President’s Proposed Budget Slashes Crop Insurance
On Monday, President Barack Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2016. In addition to the creation of a single, monolithic food inspection agency and cuts to some conservation programs, the budget suggests a 10 percent cut to premium subsidies for harvest-price policies. This marks the third presidential budget in as many years to include a cut to the program, and comes just one year after the direct payment method was eliminated in the most recent Farm Bill debate.

Congressional Agriculture Committee leaders have already voiced their opposition to the proposed crop insurance changes. Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Pat Roberts of Kansas spoke out against the budget, saying that it turns a deaf ear to our nation’s farmers and ranchers by directly cutting the very tool that helps growers produce a safe and affordable food supply year after year.” The administration states that its plan would save taxpayers nearly $16 billion over 10 years, including $1.1 billion in fiscal 2016. Crop insurance is an important tool that enables farmers to better manage risk, and allows them to more easily recover from unforeseen occurrences, such as damaging weather.

The Word On Wheat: Do you know where your food comes from?
With most consumers removed from the farm by more than a generation, often there is a disconnect between agriculture and the food we consume. The Washington Post tested consumers’ knowledge, last week, with a quiz that asked readers to guess the agriculture commodity represented based on a map image of where the food is grown. One of the maps represented wheat production.

NWF shared the article and explored the topic further on the Word on Wheat blog, highlighting the importance of understanding where food comes from. The idea of “Act Local, Think Global” was expanded to emphasize the abundance of food grown in the U.S. and recognize that some food items may travel further to the grocery store shelves based on seasonality and other factors. Using the example of wheat, the blog states, “In the U.S., 42 out of 50 states grow wheat, and approximately 50 percent of that wheat remains stateside for use in food products. Not to mention, U.S. wheat farmers produce all six classes of wheat across the country. We are the only country that can offer all types of wheat to customers at home and abroad.”

The full blog can be read here.

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NAWG Trade Committee Meets
The NAWG Domestic Trade Policy Committee met last week during NAWG’s Winter Wheat Conference in Washington, DC to discuss a wide arrange of policy issues currently affecting America’s wheat industry. Topics included crop insurance, free trade agreements and Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) reauthorization..

Guest speakers were Robert Ibarra, Deputy Administrator for Insurance Services, USDA, RMA to discuss farm bill implementation; Jared Hill, Director of Legislative Affairs, National Grain and Feed Association, to discuss FGIS reauthorization, and Devry Boughner Vorwerk; Director of International Business Relations, Cargill, to discuss the US Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

The committee passed a motion instructing NAWG staff to move forward in constructing a Wheat Caucus for Members of Congress to more effectively work on legislation to benefit wheat farmers. The Domestic Trade Policy Committee will meet again later this month at Commodity Classic in Phoenix, Arizona.

NAWG Environment Committee Meets
The Environment and Renewable Resources Committee met last week in Washington, D.C. to discuss several environmental policy issues impacting wheat growers. The committee heard from the Environmental Protection Agency on the proposed ground-level ozone regulation as well as American Farm Bureau Federation regarding the regulation. The Fertilizer Institute reviewed its 4Rs program, recommending that NAWG become a partner of the 4Rs nutrient stewardship program. The committee also heard from the Senate Agriculture Committee staff regarding the committee’s work over the year and heard updates from several states on pending issues within their state.

Water of the U.S. Highlighted in Hearing
A rare bicameral hearing on Waters of the U.S. was held this week by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. Environmental Protection Agency EPA) Administrator (Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy testified. The committees also heard from state officials regarding the impact of the regulation on state and local governments. A final Waters of the U.S. regulation is expected to be released in the spring. The Chairs of the House and Senate committees issued a statement following the hearing calling for EPA to withdraw the regulation.

In related action, last week, EPA and the Army Corps withdrew the controversial Interpretive Rule that identified specific Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practice standards that would be exempt from permitting under a normal farming practice exemption of the Clean Water Act. NAWG supported Congressional efforts to withdraw the Interpretive Rule due to concerns that it limited what would be considered a normal farming practice.