NAWG Weekly Updates, February 15, 2018

NAWG PRESS RELEASE: President’s FY2019 Budget Calls for Disappointing Cuts to USDA and Key Farm Bill Programs
On February 12, 2018, President Trump released his FY2019 Budget which reduces the budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture by 16-percent from the 2017 enacted level. The proposed budget also calls for cuts to vital Farm Bill programs, including crop insurance and other key safety net provisions. In the release, NAWG President Gordon Stoner calls the proposed cuts to the Farm Bill’s crop insurance programs as “simply unacceptable.” The FY2019 Budget also proposes “streamlining” conservation programs leading to a cut of $13.042 billion over 10 years. The Budget also eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Conservation programs, like these, have allowed growers to maintain healthier land and better integrate sustainable farming practices into their operations. Lastly, the proposal doesn’t fund FMD because of the $50 million Farm Bill threshold. Read the release in its entirety here.

2018 NAWG/NWF Winter Conference: Environment and Renewable Resources Committee
The NAWG Environment and Renewable Resources Committee met last week and focus on the upcoming Farm Bill.  The committee members heard from Congressional staff from both the House and Senate Agriculture Committee’s Majority and Minority Staff. The Agriculture committee staff shared information on hearings and preparation for the Farm Bill and schedule moving forward. The NAWG committee members discussed provisions of the conservation title of the Farm Bill including the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Reserve Program and NAWG’s priorities and recommendations for modifications to the programs. The Environment and Renewable Resources committee will continue to review and provide recommendations on the conservation title of the Farm Bill during the reauthorization process.

2018 NAWG/NWF Winter Conference: Domestic Trade and Policy Committee
NAWG’s Domestic and Trade Policy Committee met with discussion focusing primarily around the Farm Bill and on tax policy.  The committee heard from representatives from the Senate Agriculture Committee’s majority and minority staffs about issues at play through the Farm Bill process and their thoughts about the path for moving forward.  Following the briefing from Hill staff, the DTPC members had an internal discussion regarding ARC/PLC, crop insurance, the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program, ag data, and food aid.  Additionally, with negotiations underway on the Hill regarding Section 199A of the tax reform bill, the committee discussed the current status of the negotiations and implications of possible changes.  NAWG staff has taken feedback from the committee members on these topics and will continue to communicate our positions to Members of Congress and the Administration.

2018 NAWG/NWF Winter Conference: Joint International Trade Policy Committee 
The Joint International Trade Policy Committee met on Friday morning where there was no shortage of conversation regarding trade. The committee overviewed recent events, like NAFTA, TPP, China and the WTO cases among other topics. The committee also discussed various tools to amplify the wheat farmer voices such as grassroots efforts and congressional meetings.

The Committee was also joined by staffers from the Senate Agriculture Committees—Janae Brady (Majority) and Katie Bergh (Minority)—and the House Agriculture Committees—Caleb Crosswhite (Majority) and Matt MacKenzie (Minority). The panel discussed the trade title of the farm bill, NAFTA and other trade related matters from the congressional perspective.

2018 NAWG/NWF Winter Conference: Wheat Breeding Innovation Committee
On Friday morning, the Wheat Breeding Innovation Committee met and discussed a variety of issues regarding plant breeding innovation.  USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach joined the group to overview the Administrations’ review of APHIS Part 340 and where USDA is in the current rulemaking process. Members where reminded that the last proposed rule was pulled back due to concerns on the regulation determination process. Bay State Milling also presented to the committee on their innovative new flour that is high in fiber. The company answered questions regarding international and domestic implications as well as diet and nutrition.

Food aid op-ed raises eyebrows on Hill
Recently, the American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall signed onto a newspaper op-ed in support of flexibility in the way the U.S. government provides international food aid trough the Food for Peace program. The piece in the (Nashville) Tennessean was jointly written with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Chris Coons. In brief, the op-ed supports the concept of sourcing foods close to the countries where they are needed when that’s more efficient than shipping U.S. commodities. According to AgriPulse, Former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and a former administrator of the U.S. Agency of International Development, Andrew Natsios, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday that the article shows farmers are becoming less resistant to using U.S. food-aid dollars to buy food overseas. NAWG is disappointed in this position taken by AFBF and Senators Corker and Coons.