NAWG Weekly Update: September 3, 2015

NAWG Pushes for House Action on Transportation Legislation
This week, a wide range of agriculture and industry organizations sent a letter to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging passage of a long-term transportation reauthorization bill. Before leaving for the August recess, Congress passed a short-term extension of transportation programs, which included temporary funding for the Highway Trust Fund that expires at the end of October. The Senate also passed its own six-year reauthorization bill, but the House has not yet acted on its own long-term legislation.

The letter discussed the importance of several specific issues that should be addressed in any final bill, including an extension of implementation of new Positive Train Control (PTC) requirements, the need for allowing for increased truck weight limits with a corresponding requirement for equipping trucks hauling bigger loads with an additional sixth axle, lowering the federal minimum age limit for CDLs to 18, and dropping the requirement for custom harvesters and others in the agriculture industry from having to get a hazardous materials endorsement in order to haul more than 118 gallons of diesel fuel. Additionally, the letter also calls on the House to conclude the reauthorization process for the Surface Transportation Board (STB), either through stand-alone legislation or through inclusion in a broader transportation bill. The Senate has also already acted on its own STB reauthorization bill. A copy of the letter can be found here.

Oklahoma Wheat Commission Produces “Truth About Wheat”
The Oklahoma Wheat Commission, working in partnership with the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), has produced a series titled “Truth About Wheat”. Wheat has been successfully feeding civilizations for over 10,000 years and has the nickname “Staff of Life”. Sit down at the dining room table tonight at 7:30 p.m. Central Time on OETA for an informative discussion with experts, Dr. Brett Carver, Regents Professor and Wheat Genetics Chair in Agriculture from Oklahoma State University; Dr. Julie Miller-Jones, Board Certified Nutrition Specialist and Licensed Nutritionist and current Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN, and Sara Olsen, Colorado Wheat Farmer, Mother & Colorado Wheat Administrative Council board member moderated by well-known agriculture reporter Ken Root. Check out the introduction video here. For all presentation times, visit the Oklahoma Wheat website here.

NAWG Sponsors International Biotech Symposium
The International Biotech Symposium, hosted by Illinois Soybean Association, was held in Bloomington, IL on August 31. The event served to highlight recent developments creating regulatory uncertainty of GM traits, with focus on the European Union and China. NAWG Research Director Steve Joehl participated in the event along with farmers, industry thought leaders, technology providers and international trading partners.

Industry experts presented information demonstrating regulatory delays are averaging more than three years for most traits. Information was also presented showing the economic impact these delays have on farmer productivity, technology provider profitability and consumers’ food availability and pricing.

U.S. and international biotechnology companies will have many new transgenic events (in crops other than wheat) that increase crop yields and quality ready for registration by 2016. Unfortunately, the world is lacking a science-based approval system, preventing farmers from adopting this new technology and causing international trade disturbances. Regulatory roadblocks and divergent approval systems are slowing the biotechnology-driven yield advances needed to feed our growing world.

Presenters encouraged attendees to coalesce messages aimed at the consumer on the societal benefit of biotechnology and to reach out to legislators urging the need for timely, synchronous approvals across all countries.

NAWG Joins the Honey Bee Health Coalition
This summer NAWG officially joined the Honey Bee Health Coalition (HBHC), a group working collaboratively to implement solutions that will help achieve a healthy population of honey bees—both native and managed pollinators—in the contest of productive agricultural systems and thriving ecosystems. With the ongoing conversations around the country regarding pollinator health and crop protection tools, this forum allows all members to work collaboratively to address ongoing policy discussions. HBHC developed a Bee Healthy Roadmap, creating goals around hive management, nutrition and forage, crop protection management and outreach, education and communication. Other members include other grower groups, conservation groups, beekeepers, researches, agribusinesses and government agencies. Click here for more information on the coalition and to see a complete list of members.

University of Illinois Seeks Feedback on Farm Bill Decision Tools
The 2014 Farm Bill included resources for some universities and USDA’s Extension Service to be able to develop tools to assist producers with choosing between the new Title 1 programs, the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. One of the institutions that developed a web-based decision tool was the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Following the first year of implementation, the University of Illinois is seeking feedback from producers about the factors that played a role in their decisions and whether these tools were utilized. To gather this feedback, they have developed a survey, which is voluntary and confidential; any data collected will be averaged and reported in aggregate only. Individual information and responses will not be made public. If you would like to share your feedback, more information about the survey can be found here.