NAWG Weekly Update: July 24, 2014

Wheat Growers Seek Passage of Pesticide Permitting Bill
NAWG is urging growers and state associations to contact their Members of Congress and urge them to vote in support of H.R. 935, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act prior to August recess. H.R. 935 would eliminate the requirement for a Clean Water Act National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit when applying pesticides. Due to a 2009 court decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA, certain pesticide applications require an NPDES permit in addition to regulation through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Farmers and pesticide applicators apply based on label rates, which is the law. Additional environmental protections do not result from the NPDES permit, only additional paperwork and possible citizen lawsuits and fines of up to $37,500 per day. We encourage all growers to contact their Representatives in support of H.R. 935 to eliminate this unnecessary permit. NAWG policy supports passage of H.R. 935 and NAWG is pushing for a vote on the legislation before the House of Representatives heads home for August recess.

House Small Business Subcommittee Examines Size Standards
Today the House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, examined the Small Business Administration (SBA) size standards for agricultural producers.  The Subcommittee, Chaired by Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) heard testimony from; John Shoraka, Associate Administrator, Government Contracting and Business Development at the SBA, Mark Oestmann a fourth generation farmer and rancher from Greeley, Colo., Ken Keesman, owner of KK Red Angus Farms in Osborn, Mo. and Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President for Public Policy at United Fresh Produce Association. The SBA establishes small business size standards in order to simplify the process of writing federal policy as it relates to small business concerns. Currently the small business agricultural enterprise does not increase with inflation as it does in other sectors, it is set in statue and only subject to review if Congress believes it is necessary. As a result, the agricultural size standard has remained at the $750,000 level since 2000, and as Mr. Shorka points out in his testimony “the SBA has reviewed and adjusted monetary based size standards for inflation four times in that time period.” As equipment and input costs such as fertilizer, seed and energy continue to increase so does the receipts that exist for agriculture producers. Mr. Oestmann, who farms 1,500 acres of corn, 500 acres of soybeans and 500 acres of wheat, gave the example that from 1985 to 2006 an average price for corn was approximately $2.27/bushel and their farm receipts for just corn during that period would have been $681,000, but compared to today’s average price of $4.94/bushel from 2007-2014 the same 300,000 bushels would bring in around $1,482,000.  Given this example Mr. Oestmann asked that the SBA seriously consider raising the “arbitrary $750,000 in receipts that currently exists for agriculture producers.” To read the full testimony from today’s hearing you can visit the Committee’s website.

NRCS Listening Sessions on Wetland Determination Offsite Review & Mitigation Banking
On Wednesday, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) held a listening session in Washington, D.C. regarding offsite review for making wetland determinations and the implementation of a revised provision in the 2014 farm bill that addresses Wetland Mitigation Banking as an option to come into compliance due to a wetland violation. In an effort to increase consistency of determinations and efficiency in undertaking reviews, NRCS is developing offsite wetland determination procedures for the prairie pothole region. After gathering initial input, NRCS will release their proposal in the federal register for public review comment. NRCS is also seeking input on the implementation of a revised provision granting greater flexibility in the use of mitigation banks and $10 million provided in the 2014 farm bill. Mitigation banks potentially allow producers that have wetland violations to mitigate their violation by purchasing credits in a mitigate bank.

Additional listening sessions are expected in the Prairie Pothole region and in Florida and California. In areas where a listening session is not scheduled, information will be shared in future State Technical Committee Meetings in each state. Information regarding the next sessions can be found here.

  • Ankeny, Iowa – July 28
  • Albert Lea, Minn. – July 29
  • Aberdeen, S.D.  – July 30
  • Fargo, N.D.  – July 31

Wheat Genome Sequence Announced
The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) published a draft sequence of the genome of bread wheat in the July 18 journal Science. The draft sequence, which is more than halfway complete, is a major landmark towards obtaining a complete reference sequence of the wheat genome. According to the IWGSC, “With a chromosome-based full sequence in hand, plant breeders will have high quality tools at their disposal to accelerate breeding programs and to identify how genes control complex traits such as yield, grain quality, disease, pest resistance, or abiotic stress tolerance.”  Using this information, plant breeders will be able to produce a new generation of wheat varieties with higher yields and improved sustainability to meet the demands of a growing world population in a changing environment.  At nearly 16 giga base pairs, the complexity of the wheat genome has resulted in this endeavor taking almost ten years to date, with an additional three years and another $22.2 million to sequence the remainder of the wheat genome. By comparison, the human genome consists of about 3.2 giga base pairs. NAWG welcomes the news of this progress and looks forward to continued research on genome sequencing. The Science article can be accessed here.

Perdue Wins Georgia Senate Runoff
David Perdue, a Georgia businessman, beat long-time Congressman Jack Kingston in Georgia’s Republican Senate runoff on Tuesday. The victory was narrow for Perdue who received 50.9 percent of the vote to Kingston’s 49.1 percent. Perdue will go up against democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in the general election this November. Neither Nunn nor Perdue has ever held a public office. Although, Nunn’s father, Sam Nunn, represented Georgia in the Senate for 24 years and Perdue’s first cousin, Sonny Perdue was Georgia’s governor from 2003-2011.

WIA Executive Committee Meets
The Wheat Innovation Alliance (WIA) Executive Committee met this week in Washington, D.C. The Committee elected Jim Meyer with Italgrani USA of St. Louis, Mo. as chairman, and NAWG president Paul Penner as secretary-treasurer. The Executive Committee considered program objectives for fiscal year 2015, including an industry Forum to be held in the fall of 2014.

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