NAWG Weekly Update: June 18, 2015

House Passes Trade Promotion Authority

Efforts to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) have taken multiple turns over the past week. Last Friday, the House passed legislation to reauthorize TPA; however, the House also voted down a bill to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The rule for consideration required that both bills pass in order to move forward.  House leadership subsequently took procedural steps to allow for a re-vote on the TAA bill up until July 30.

However, on Wednesday, June 17, House leadership also took steps to allow for a separate vote on a TPA-only measure. Today the House voted on the measure, which passed 218-208. The Senate would now have to vote on the stand-alone measure. Additionally, part of the overall strategy includes the Senate attempting to attach TAA to a separate trade preferences bill. NAWG continues to engage Congress concerning the importance of reauthorizing Trade Promotion Authority as quickly as possible in order to enable the Administration to continue Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

NAWG President Brett Blankenship issued a statement following the vote. “Providing our trade negotiators with the tools to finalize trade negotiations is critical to keeping America in the lead on trade talks and wheat growers at the table. Support for TPA is support for American agriculture. I’m hopeful that Congress can finish this process quickly and send this important legislation to the President’s desk.” Click here for the complete statement.

Senate Ag Appropriations Committee Considers FY 2016 Spending Bill

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL), marked up and approved by voice vote its version of the FY 2016 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bill today. The bill would provide $20.7 billion in discretionary spending, which would represent a 1 percent reduction from the FY 2015 enacted level, and it is $1.1 billion less than the Administration’s budget request. The text of the bill can be viewed here. The “bill report” has not yet been made publicly available; as such, details related to wheat-specific research programs in the bill are not yet known.

The bill includes a provision that would prohibit USDA from restricting premium assistance related to conservation compliance for crop insurance eligibility for the 2016 reinsurance year. The intended purpose of the language is not to unravel conservation compliance requirements, but rather to allow for additional time for implementation in order to address concerns posed by producers. If enacted, implementation would continue to move forward, but producers would not be penalized for non-compliance during this first year. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet acted on its own version of the FY 2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill, but NAWG expects consideration could occur soon.

Appropriations Bills Address Clean Water Rule  

This week the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies including a provision in the fiscal year 2016 funding bill that would prohibit the EPA from implementing the regulation redefining the waters of the U.S. under the Clean Water Act. This provision is similar to a provision included in the House version of the bill. The House Appropriations Committee also approved their bill related to funding for the EPA this week. Annual funding bills must be passed and signed into law by the end of September to fund the government for next fiscal year. The waters of the U.S. regulation, released on May 27, has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but it is expected to be printed in the next week or two. Once officially printed, a 60-day Congressional Review period starts and the regulation will become effective at the end of the 60 day period. NAWG supports these appropriations bill provisions and legislation to that would require EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the regulation.

House Subcommittee Highlights Need for Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act

Today NAWG issued a statement applauding the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee for holding a hearing on the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. “The current situation of individual states having unique labeling requirements is not workable or sustainable. NAWG supports facilitating interstate commerce by having a common labeling rule set by Congress. We are pleased the bill is receiving bipartisan support,” said NAWG President, Brett Blankenship, wheat grower from Washtucna, Wash.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act will ensure that food labeling in the United States is consistent across state lines and based on sound science. The bill increases coordination between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), guaranteeing that our nation’s foremost experts on food and agricultural safety are in charge of labeling decisions. Click here to read the full statement.

 NWF Launches 2015 Wheat Harvest Photo Contest

The National Wheat Foundation is proud to sponsor a photo contest recognizing wheat farmers and showcasing this year’s harvest season. “We are excited to announce the 2015 Wheat Harvest Photo Contest,” said NWF Chairman and Colorado wheat farmer, Dusty Tallman. ”We want to commemorate this year’s harvest and thank America’s wheat farmers by inviting all to enter our photo contest.” Entering the photo contest is simple. Email your best 2015 wheat harvest picture to Photos will be posted on the National Wheat Foundation’s Facebook page. The Foundation directors will vote to determine the winning photo. All photos must be received by August 28, 2015. The NWF Directors will be awarding four winners. First place will receive an iPad and three runners up will receive a 50-dollar gift card. The winning photos will be displayed in the Wheat Growers office in Washington, D.C. Click here for more information on how to submit a photo.

Farm Foundation Explores the Future of Land Grants

Last week NAWG attended the Farm Foundation Round Table in Columbus, Ohio. Over 200 participants and speakers addressed the current relevancy and focus of the “land grant” system of colleges and universities established in 1862, discussed their future role, and commented on ways they could provide more benefits to society in general and to agriculture specifically. The Farm Foundation Round Tables provide a forum for farmers, tech provider senior executives, university deans, national ag media, political advisors and private industry to discuss off the record the issues impacting our nation’s ability to produce food and fiber. In combination with the discussion of the future of the land grant university system, the participants also discussed the future of agricultural research, the overlapping of human and animal health, farmers’ expectations of university extension outreach. Participants also went on a tour of The Ohio State University’s integrated food research area and ongoing wetlands studies. Kansas wheat grower, Jay Armstrong, completed his two-year term as chairman of the Farm Foundation at this meeting.