NAWG Weekly Update: November 20, 2014

NAWG Files Comments on Waters of the U.S. Regulation
Late last week, NAWG joined a coalition of state and national agriculture organizations in filing written comments in opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the U.S. regulation citing expanded jurisdictional authority, lack of clarity and asking for the withdrawal of the proposal. The letter states, “The proposed rule provides none of the clarity and certainty it promises. Instead, it creates confusion and risk by providing the Agencies with almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects, including common farm ditches, ephemeral drainages, agricultural ponds, and isolated wetlands found in and near farms and ranches across the nation.”

EPA released the controversial proposal in April and the official comment period ended Friday with nearly 500,000 submissions. The proposal has garnered opposition from agriculture, business groups and Members of Congress. The House of Representatives has already passed H.R. 5078 requiring EPA to withdraw the proposal and efforts are underway to address the issue in end of year federal funding legislation. Provisions prohibiting EPA from moving forward with the proposal are included in the Interior Appropriations bill are being discussed as a possible provision should Congress act of an Omnibus Appropriations bill. A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

Setting the Record Straight on Glyphosate Application
A recent article accused wheat farmers of “drenching” their crops in herbicides shortly before harvest as a “standard procedure,” which is not standard practice. The article references a report that has been debunked from Samsel and Seneff in 2013 alleging glyphosate residues are responsible for the surge in Celiac disease. The Celiac Disease Foundation has also challenged the report. Roundup brand agricultural herbicides are proven safe for the applicator, the environment and the consumer, when used according to label instructions. Growers apply pesticides in a manner that is approved by EPA. NAWG supports the responsible use of herbicides. NAWG Vice President and wheat farmer from Washtucna, Wash., Brett Blankenship, provides the farmer’s perspective in this video. Brett uses glyphosate well before planting to provide a clean growing environment and after harvest to provide a clean growing environment for the next crop. Wheat farmers are important to all of us. In the U.S., there are 55 million acres of wheat produced across 44 states that provide a key ingredient in nutritious bread and pastas. If you have questions about how your food is being produced, ask a farmer.

Here’s another piece written by our friends at Kansas Wheat giving the truth on herbicide application from various experts.

Conaway Picked to Chair Committee on Agriculture
This week Congressman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) was voted Chairman-elect to the House Committee on Agriculture for the 114th Congress to replace Chairman Lucas (OK-3), who will be stepping down at the end of the 113th session due to term limits. Congressman Conaway has already announced a few key staffers under his new leadership. The new Committee Staff Director will be Scott Graves who serves as the current Chief of Staff to Congressman Conaway. A few names will remain familiar including Matt Schertz, current Senior Professional Staff to Chairman Lucas, who will become the Policy Director and Bart Fischer who will remain the Chief Economist. The Republican Steering Committee approved Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) to remain the Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development. The Committee also approved four new Republican members including Congressman David Jolly (FL-13), Congressman Scott Rigell (VA-02), Congressman Evan Jenkins (WV-3) and Congressman David Young (IA-3).

NWF Recruiting Advocates for Consumer Education Effort
As part of a broad consumer education effort, the National Wheat Foundation (NWF) is seeking candidates for a pilot program that provides tools and resources to wheat industry allies interested in advocating on behalf of the wheat industry. The Wheat Advocates Project will identify and develop a network of Wheat Advocates and Allies that consist of wheat farmers, spouses of wheat farmers, friends of wheat farmers and third parties knowledgeable of the wheat industry, to serve as voices of knowledge, reason and support in conversations with consumers about wheat issues, including wheat innovation.

All Wheat Advocates will receive social media training from industry experts, messaging guides to reference when promoting wheat innovation, and media opportunities to share personal stories and experiences through local, state, and national publications, as well as on the new NWF blog page. NWF staff will select 10 applicants to participate in the 6-month program, which will run from January to June 2015. To apply or learn more about the Wheat Advocates program, visit the program page on the NWF website here. Applications are due by December 17, 2014.

NAWG Partners with OFW Law for Government Affairs
NAWG is partnering with Olsson-Frank-Weeda-Terman-Matz (OFW) Law to lead the Association’s farm bill implementation efforts. The team from OFW includes Molly O’Connor as the Director of Government Affairs, Ken Ackerman as Crop Insurance Specialist and Nathan Fretz as Farm Bill Specialist. “We are excited to add the leadership and industry expertise that OFW has into our government affairs department. With farm bill implementation fully upon us it is very important that wheat growers’ needs be heard in the many farm bill implementation and crop insurance discussions,” commented Jim Palmer, NAWG CEO.

WILOT Class #18 Graduates Ten New Wheat Grower Leaders
The 18th class of the Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow (WILOT) program of the NWF, funded annually by a generous grant from Monsanto, met this week in St. Louis, Mo. The purpose of this five-day program was to provide in-depth leadership training for current and potential state and national wheat grower leaders. Topics included leading different grower personalities, building consumer trust in agriculture, organizational communications, an overview of the various wheat industry organizations, traditional and social media communications training, what’s new in Monsanto wheat research and current issues impacting the wheat industry. The 10-member class represented the wheat-producing states of Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, North Dakota, Colorado and Kansas. NAWG First Vice President Brett Blankenship represented the NAWG Executive Committee at this year’s WILOT program. NWF appreciates Monsanto’s continued support of this important leader development program.

National Wheat Foundation Partners with BASF for Jerry Minore Scholarship
NWF has partnered with BASF to give away four scholarships for students with connections to the wheat industry. The scholarship is named in honor of Jerry Minore, who was a longtime friend of the wheat industry and advocate for wheat farmers. To honor his work and life, BASF and NWF give away scholarships to students who are planning careers in agriculture.

The Minore Memorial Scholarship will fund four college scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year: two $1,500 scholarships and two $1,000 scholarships. All applications must be postmarked ON or BEFORE Dec. 19, 2014. More information about the scholarship and the application form are here.