NAWG Weekly Update: May 7, 2015

NAWG Staff Participates in Kansas Wheat Tour
This week, NAWG legislative director Josh Tonsager joined a group of more than 90 participants from across the globe for the Wheat Quality Tour in Kansas. The participants stopped at several hundred hard red winter wheat fields across the state, gaining first-hand experience and understanding of this year’s wheat crop quality prior to harvest. The southwestern portion of the state was some of the most drought-stricken, showing an estimated range from 0-18 bushels per acre. The stretch from Dodge City to Wichita showed stronger potential, with most fields averaging from 35-50 bushels per acre. Issues spotted along the way were wheat streak mosaic virus, wheat smut, winterkill, hail damage and drought stress. At the conclusion of the tour, the three-day average total yield across the state came to 35.9 bushels per acre (estimated based on 659 total stops). For comparison, the average estimated yield from the 2014 wheat tour was 33.2 bushels per acre. The total estimated production for the 2015 crop for Kansas, based on this year’s tour, is 288.5 million bushels.

Search for #wheattour15 for highlights of the tour. 

Senate Ag Committee Reviews Grain Standards Act
The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to review the Grain Standards Act (GSA) ahead of the Committee’s anticipated efforts to reauthorize the Act. Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) opened the hearing with a short summary of the port closures Washington State experienced earlier this year. In his analysis, this event saw the failure of the current GSA in allocating new grain inspectors to reopen U.S. grain exports to Asia and precipitated the current review of the GSA. The Committee heard from a number of stakeholders, including testimony from representatives of the American Soybean Association, the American Association of Grain Inspection and Weighing Agencies, the National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association. The witnesses’ testimony can be found at this link.

NAWG was officially associated with the American Soybean Association’s testimony. NAWG also sent its own letter to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee outlining the organization’s priorities and concerns. It is expected that the Committee will consider reauthorization legislation in the coming weeks. Throughout this process, NAWG continues to engage Committee staff concerning the importance of maintaining public inspection services, particularly during disruptions.

Conservation Compliance Deadline Rapidly Approaching
The 2014 farm bill linked conservation compliance to crop insurance and the deadline for certifying compliance is June 1, 2015 to ensure eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies. Most wheat growers already have an AD-1026 form on file with their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office and therefore won’t need to take any action before the deadline. However, it is important to note that all affiliated parties with an operation must have an AD-1026 on file with FSA by June 1. The Risk Management Agency sent letters directly to crop insurance customers that do not currently have an AD-1026 on file. USDA also developed a list of frequently asked questions to help growers understand the new requirements. Growers should check with the local FSA offices if you have questions about the status of your AD-1026 form.

NAWG Joins Ag Community to Support Farm Credit
In response to a recent radio interview with the president of the American Bankers Association calling for the elimination of the Farm Credit System (FCS), NAWG joined more than 40 agriculture trade associations last week in a letter in support of FCS and maintaining competitive access to credit in rural America. The letter calls for a constructive, collaborative approach to improve and expand farmers’, ranchers’ and rural businesses’ access to competitive and stable credit offerings. “Rather than calling for the elimination of the FCS, we believe it would make more sense to find improved ways to work collaboratively with Farm Credit and other credit providers for the benefit of farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” the letter states.

Rural financial options, including credit and the financial products provided by both Farm Credit and commercial banks, are vital to the economic success and sustainability of farmers, ranchers and rural America. The stakes are simply too high for rural America to have fewer financing options to meet the challenges of advancing rural economic growth. The letter can be read here.

NAWG Opposes European Commission Biotech Opt Out
Recently the European Commission proposed to amend its regulation of genetically modified food and feed to allow member states to adopt national decisions restricting or prohibiting the use in food or feed of GM products. This proposal would allow Member States to “opt-out” of these product imports even after scientifically proven safe for food and feed use authorized at the EU level.

Last week NAWG joined the U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance in a letter to the European Commissioner of Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis in response to the proposal. The letter points to the proposal’s contradiction with the core principles necessary for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. This opt out mechanism undermines the fundamental purpose of trade negotiations and the value of biotechnology in feeding an ever-growing world population.