NAWG Quarterly Report July - Sept. 2016

Hello,

Enclosed within this document you will find the NAWG First Quarterly Report, for July through September of 2016. I am confident that you will find plenty in this report to inspire and motivate you for a full year of productivity and success in advocating for wheat growers. The first quarter of this year has been both a learning experience for me, as I familiarize myself with the nuanced needs and priorities of the wheat industry, and a lesson in the overwhelming resilience of the wheat industry in the face of challenges. It has been a successful and informative first quarter.

Over this quarter, I made several trips around the country, mostly to state association annual meetings, such as the North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association board meeting, the Nebraska Seed Day, and the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association annual meeting. At all of these meetings, we discussed NAWG’s current policies and priorities, particularly as we prepare for the 2018 Farm Bill. To visit with our state leaders and meet the local growers was illuminating to me in highlighting the localized issues that our wheat growers are facing. I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to visit with these growers and witness firsthand the work they do to ensure the success and quality of American wheat.

My travels also included attending the BNSF Ag Rail Business Meeting, where we discussed Farm Bill preparation in the context of the importance of advocacy with other farm and agriculture organizations. In that same vein, I also attended the Croplife America Government Policy Weekend meeting and participated in the CEO Council Panel discussion.

Much of this quarter’s work was focused on positioning NAWG at the forefront of the discussion on the 2018 Farm Bill, particularly with the development of the Farm Bill Survey. NAWG is prepared to fight for wheat growers on several fronts, including crop insurance, commodity programs, trade, and nutrition. As we begin to transition into the next period of establishing priorities and receiving input from growers on the importance of Farm Bill programs, it will become even more crucial that growers continue to interact with the national association, share their thoughts, and stay committed to advocating for their fellow growers.

I look forward to an exciting and rewarding second quarter. NAWG continues to serve as the voice of U.S. wheat growers in Washington, D.C., advocating on behalf of growers. We are excited to see what the rest of 2016 will bring, and look forward to the supportive and effective communication between NAWG and its member states.

Sincerely,

Chandler Goule

CEO

Chandler Goule and House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN)
Chandler Goule and Gordon Stoner tour the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Oregon.
Communications Report

REGULAR COMMUNICATIONS, OUTREACH, AND PARTNERSHIPS

NAWG and NWF continue regular communications updates, including the weekly newsletter, press releases, social media interactions, regular website updates, the NWF blog, and periodic alerts distributed to states and board of director members.

NAWG continues the Wheat Leaders Communications Outreach Program and Agri-Pulse leadership program, which offer weekly information to our board and state executives on what is going on here in Washington D.C. This program provides both NAWG and NWF the opportunity to release organizational and wheat issue related information in an expedited fashion through the cover wrap of each week’s Agri-Pulse e-newsletter. NAWG also participates in regular radio interviews with agriculture networks to discuss recent developments in the wheat industry.

This quarter, NAWG and NWF initiated the process of soliciting web redesign proposals from various designers and consultants in the D.C. area, with that process resulting in a contract signed with North Bridge Communications and Ironistic Design at the end of October. During the quarter from July to September, NAWG considered several proposals and plans from designers before making the decision, and plan to implement the new design in January of 2017. In preparation for this transition, NAWG Communications staff have spent much of this quarter updating and archiving the information on the website in preparation for streamlining the content transfer between websites.

In addition, NAWG has increased its social media presence with the help of expanded collaboration with the state communications teams, as well as the implementation of several new social media initiatives to increase member engagement and content regularity. With the help of the office interns, the NAWG and NWF social media has seen a rise in grower engagement, digital reach, and followers on all platforms. NAWG plans to continue and expand these initiatives and practices through the redesign of the website, which will provide modern and efficient ways to amplify NAWG and NWF’s voice through social media.

NAWG participated in several press opportunities this quarter, such as drawing awareness to the importance of an effective Farm Bill in combating the decade lows in wheat prices; welcoming the end of Japan’s temporary suspension of white wheat imports following the finding of GE wheat in a fallow field in Washington this summer; and an appeal to the House Committee on Agriculture on opening market access and trade with Cuba, to the benefit of American wheat growers. NAWG also collaborated with U.S. Wheat Associates this quarter on several press opportunities, including the announcement of the trade enforcement action against China at the World Trade Organization, in response to China’s unfair market support programs. NAWG’s continued partnership with U.S. Wheat Associates in protecting and advancing the interests of American wheat growers at home and abroad is vitally important to the success of both organizations in their efforts to advocate for growers.

This quarter, NAWG also announced the opening of the applications for the Jerry Minore Scholarship, the deadline for which is December 31. The scholarship is open to college freshmen through juniors, and provides four scholarships to students who have a demonstrated interest in agriculture. More information on the scholarship can be found here.

In addition to the regular responsibilities of the NAWG and NWF Communications staff, efforts have been made this quarter to develop the relationship between the national Communications staff and the state Communications staff, to increase collaboration on social media techniques, increase the local grower engagement with the national association, and share wheat-related news with the state associations. In addition, NAWG conducted a thorough audit of the overall reach of NAWG’s Communications efforts and found there to be a large area for potential expansion. Throughout this quarter and the next, NAWG will be making every effort to broaden the ways in which the NAWG and NWF Communications departments can promote NAWG and NWF’s advocacy on the behalf of wheat growers. These efforts will range from increased social media, to a more efficient and accessible website, and hopefully will result in a reliable and conscientious spreading of NAWG and NWF’s messages. NAWG and NWF’s communications efforts are key to enhancing public support of the wheat industry and maintaining the excellent reputation of wheat.

POLICY REPORTS

Farm Programs Policy

Farm Bill Implementation, Crop Insurance, and Agriculture Appropriations

Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC)-County Data issues

NAWG has continued to work through a number of different angles on resolving a problem related to the use of National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data in determining payments through the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) County program. These efforts have included seeking an administrative adjustment to the data cascade utilized by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), seeking Congressional help through the Appropriations process to direct an adjustment be made, and working with NASS to communicate to farmers the importance of responding accurately to production surveys.

As background, FSA administratively established a cascade whereby yield data from NASS would be the priority data set used in establishing benchmark and actual yields. NASS publishes yields for a given county only if at least 30 surveys are submitted (or 25% of the acreage in the county is covered by the survey responses). If those minimum thresholds aren’t met, then the next data set in the cascade is Risk Management Agency (RMA) data, followed by regional NASS data, followed by a decision by the state FSA. NAWG and other agriculture organizations have expressed concern to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) about this cascade because it leads to the use of incomparable data (both in terms of the data that’s used in neighboring counties as well as the mixing of different data sets for setting benchmark and actual yields). We have pursued an adjustment to the cascade where state FSA directors would have the ability to blend similar or contiguous county yields in those counties where there wasn’t sufficient NASS data. Throughout the meetings, FSA has been reluctant to change the cascade, raising concerns about the impact doing so could have on currently pending appeals for 2014 crop year payments, the potential cost, and the potential for backlash resulting from making some producers ineligible for payments (or reducing their payments).

Though FSA has so far been unwilling to make adjustments, NAWG has worked with other associations and with NASS leadership to communicate to our members what these surveys are utilized for and the importance of submitting accurate responses. As USDA currently uses NASS data to determine farm program payments, the responses to those surveys have a direct impact on payment rates.

In terms of other tools for addressing this issue, we have worked with Senator John Hoeven’s (R-ND) office on a provision he authored in the Senate version of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would create a $5 million pilot program to enable some states to use this process of blending similar or contiguous NASS county yields in those counties that weren’t able to publish data. NAWG supported this amendment, and has continued to work for a more wide-scale and permanent solution. As of this writing, Congress had not yet acted on a final FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill.

SCO Data Issues

Similar to ARC-County, there were some data issues that arose in calculating 2015 crop year payments under the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). Specifically, for 2015, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) also used NASS data for determining expected yields (and thus there were concerns about data accuracy and yields being set too low), and the Agency set final yields based on harvested acres instead of planted acres. As the use of harvested acres wouldn’t account for failed acres, this approach doesn’t appropriately factor in what farmers would’ve intended to have harvested when they planted their crop. NAWG sought adjustments for the 2015 crop year, but as producers had signed contracts for SCO laying out this process, the Agency was unwilling to make changes. However, the adjustments were made for the 2016 crop year to use RMA data for setting expected yields and the Agency will use planted acres in establishing final yields. We have continued to pursue input from NAWG-states to ensure new crop insurance programs are working effectively.

Crop Insurance Coalition Activities

NAWG staff continued to participate in activities of a broad crop insurance coalition comprised of most of the national agricultural organizations as well as groups representing crop insurers. The coalition has continued to meet with Congressional offices to discuss the importance of the crop insurance program and the impact that cuts to the premium subsidy or delivery system could have on farmers. The coalition has also worked proactively to counter attacks being made on crop insurance by Heritage Action and the Environmental Working Group. Part of this effort has entailed a collaborative effort of coalition partners to draft fact sheets to counter particular arguments made by the opponents.

FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations

NAWG’s reports from the last fiscal year included highlights from both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bills. Throughout this quarter, there had not been floor consideration of the bill in either chamber. Ultimately, there was very limited floor action on any appropriations bills before Congress finally acted on a continuing resolution to continue funding the federal government at FY 2016 levels until December 9th. At that time, Congress will need to act on either a new CR or a full FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill. Action on a CR rather than on the Agriculture spending bill itself has both positive and negative implications. Action on the spending bill itself opens the door to the possibility of consideration of amendments that could negatively affect Farm Bill programs. Action on a CR generally excludes the inclusion of outside policy riders. However, action on a CR also means that wheat research funding increases in the House and Senate bills (including the increase for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative) aren’t enacted. NAWG continues to engage policymakers as the Appropriations process moves forward.

2018 Farm Bill Development

NAWG has continued to participate in an informal Farm Bill Coalition, which is comprised of most of the major agricultural organizations in Washington, DC. Each of the groups have already begun to work internally to identify each of our own priorities during the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization process, but we also continue to work collaboratively to ensure that we maintain a broad coalition effort. This group has met several times to discuss various titles of the Farm Bill, including commodity programs, crop insurance, trade, conservation, and nutrition. The intent of these meetings have been to enable organizations to discuss concerns about current programs, efforts the groups have individually been undertaking to develop priorities, and laying the ground work for more collaboration moving forward.

Internally, NAWG has continued to push out our Farm Bill survey to our states to enable as broad of input as possible. The results from the survey are used for initial discussion at the Fall Wheat Conference. An internal deadline of December 15, 2016, was set to enable final results to be shared with NAWG committee members ahead of the Winter Conference in 2017 in Washington, DC. NAWG intends to have specific policy discussions and develop policy priorities to pursue during the 115th Congress.

Transportation

Surface Transportation Board (STB) Implementation

Implementation of S. 808, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015, has continued throughout the year. NAWG has participated as part of the Rail Customer Coalition (RCC) and Ag Transportation Working Group, and in our own independent efforts, to ensure that implementation reflects the desire of Congress to improve transparency in the STB’s operations. The Board has undertaken several rulemakings related to transparency requirements to ensure the reporting of the nature and disposition of complaints by the Board as well as the establishment of a voluntary arbitration process to resolve disputes. The Reauthorization Act also authorized the new ability of the Board to initiate investigations without having to wait for a formal complaint to be filed and to increase the membership of the Board from three to five members. Thus far this year, the President had not named new appointees to the board. However, NAWG has worked with other organizations to urge the Administration to appoint individuals with an agricultural background, and we have worked to prepare for the transition to the new Administration.

International Trade Policy

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Congress has not approved the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement on the heels of the Presidential election where rhetoric on the deal has been overwhelmingly negative. Through the US Coalition for TPP, NAWG has engaged in outreach efforts to the hill to outline the importance to ratify the deal in the Lame Duck session. While the spotlight on TPP is beyond agriculture, we continue to push the importance this deal will play with American agriculture that depends on a strong trade economy.

US-China WTO Case

In September, the United States Trade Representative formally brought a case against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) challenging the level of China’s trade-distorting market price support program for wheat, rice and corn. The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) have sponsored multiple studies reviewing this issue and both groups applaud the intervention of the USTR. In their announcement USTR pointed to nearly $100 billion in excess support over China’s current commitment level. The WTO process dictates that a consultation between the two countries needs to occur to determine if a solution can be found, and if there is none, then a panel to review the evidence from both parties will be set up. NAWG and USW are watching this process closely.

USTR Michael Froman and USDA Secretary Vilsack announce World Trade Organization case against China market support programs for wheat, corn, and rice.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg." - Mike Conaway

Cuba

Kansas Wheat hosted a group of Cuban flour mill professionals in September to collaborate on an information exchange. The tour guests represented two of the six flour mills in Cuba. They were able to see the value chain and process of wheat from tours of a wheat farm, mill, grain inspection center, and Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. They also met with staff of USDA as well as the Kansas Wheat representatives. While relations with Cuba are still strained, NAWG remains committed with the U.S. Ag Coalition for Cuba (USACC) to continue to advocate for normalized trade relations, especially for agriculture products.

Cuban delegation visit the Hal Ross Flour Training Mill at the IGP Institute, Manhattan, KS.

NAWG also provided testimony to the House Agriculture Committee in September in response to the hearing on “American Agriculture Trade with Cuba”. The hearing specifically focused on financial restrictions that impact agriculture trade from the U.S. to Cuba. NAWG pointed to the uncommon requirement for Cuban buyers to purchase US products with cash prior to the product being shipped to the country or through third-country banking institutions that are also restricted by current laws. This is one regulation that NAWG believes needs to be relaxed to allow for valuable trading opportunities. NAWG also signed onto the USACC testimony for the same hearing.

Research & Technology Policy

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ratifies International Seed Treaty

On September 28th, the Senate ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This Treaty will create a stable legal framework for international germplasm exchanges and allow for facilitation of access by public and private entities for the sharing of plant resources. The Treaty was adopted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2001 and signed by the U.S. in 2002, but the Senate was also required to ratify the Treaty in order to enable the U.S. to participate in the framework. Greater development with plant germplasms will address crop insecurities from disease, pests, and climate, as well as improve crop yields and the continuing development of new crop varieties. With food security as a high priority globally, the development of more resilient crop varieties with higher yields is crucial.

The Treaty is a simple and non-controversial solution to enable the exchange of plant materials globally. The Treaty has been ratified by more than 139 countries, many of which are both competitors of U.S. agriculture as well as important sources of seed exchange for public and private breeders here at home. Ratification will require no new laws, and it would not require any appropriations from Congress.

NAWG’s Board of Directors approved a resolution supporting the ratification.

United Soybean Board Discontinues Funding for Double Crop Initiative, Affecting Wheat Industry

The United Soybean Board (USB) communicated its decision to discontinue funding the Double Crop Initiative for its second year, 2017. Slated for three years, the project was only in the first year of its implementation. These research projects were aimed to establish best management practices to improve the productivity of this winter-wheat-followed-by-soybean cropping system. This decision will affect those wheat farmers and states in the wheat industry, as well as private companies that were involved in the project. This initiative was implemented to develop strategies including research, education, communication and activities to increase yield and profitability of double crop soybeans without sacrificing wheat yield.

Funding at the State level will still occur, but will be reduced by the lack of funds from USB. NAWG member states affected by this decision are Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The USB has indicated their decision was influenced by a change of strategic direction and budget constraints caused by lower soybean commodity prices.

Biotechnology Policy

GMO Disclosure Bill Signed into Law

President Barack Obama signed the GMO disclosure bill on July 29, 2016. This historic bill will require the mandatory disclosure of food that contains genetic engineering. The legislation gives food producers the option to either label their products with wording or a symbol, or to provide a smart phone accessible digital QR code that when scanned, discloses information concerning whether the food contains ingredients made with biotechnology. The newly signed, milestone law will preempt a potential patchwork of state-based GMO labeling laws that could’ve caused chaos in the national food manufacturing and distribution system. As mandated in the law, the USDA is now responsible to design and implement a national labeling system. This law is required to be fully implemented by July 29, 2018.

NAWG Calls on Congress to Fund Public Education on Biotechnology in Ag

NAWG has signed on to a letter to the U.S. Senate and House leadership supporting the inclusion of $3 million in the Fiscal Year 2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The funds would be applied to informing the public about the benefits realized by the application of biotechnology to food and agriculture production. Since the passing of the GMO disclosure bill by Congress in July, and its signing by President Obama, biotechnology in food has risen to the forefront of consumers’ attention. As the letter states, there is a considerable amount of misinformation about agriculture biotechnology in the public domain. The $3 million, recommended by many agricultural organizations, would specify that key federal agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are equipped to successfully convey to the public science- and fact-based information demonstrating the safety of food products containing GMO-produced ingredients. NAWG supports this funding to mitigate negative public opinion regarding biotechnology in food, and encourages Congress to retain the funding provision and oppose any legislative action to restrict agriculture technology development.

USDA APHIS Part 340 Fed Revision Progress

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) appears to be making some progress in its effort to revise its rules governing oversight of plant biotechnology products and new plant breeding techniques. NAWG has been monitoring these proposed revisions along with others in the agricultural industry that will be impacted by the potential changes. In the Plant Protection Act, 7CFR part 340, APHIS is proposing an up-front risk assessment before determining regulatory status of any plant containing new technology or biotechnology to assess its potential of posing an environmental pest risk.

NAWG is concerned with the lack of transparency and clarity about their changes to the rule, which will cause regulatory uncertainty and regulatory delay if changes are made. NAWG will continue to monitor and provide input on any proposed rule changes and supports a publication of the proposed new rule to allow stakeholders to provide input. December 15 is the goal to have this proposed rule completed, prior to the new administration.

Environment & Renewable Resources Policy

NAWG Staff and officers developed an internal farm bill strategy to gather feedback from wheat growers across the country. NAWG developed and posted a farm bill survey on the website to collect information on the 2014 Farm Bill. NAWG encouraged states to send the survey link to grower members to have as much input as possible to share with the NAWG committees and board as they develop policy recommendations for the 2018 Farm Bill.

The NAWG Environment and Renewable Resources Committee held several conference calls to prepare for the next farm bill. The committee heard from USDA officials regarding conservation compliance and modification to NRCS conservation programs. The committee members also discussed the natural resource concerns for wheat producers across the country and USDA conservation programs.

NAWG worked with the Pesticide Policy Coalition on pesticide regulatory issues to address issues related to the registration review of several crop protection tools. EPA’s proposal to cancel the tolerance levels for Chlorpyrifos and the review of the potential carcinogenic effects of Glyphosate and EPA’s Science Advisory Panel review were a major focus this quarter. NAWG CEO Chandler Goule also met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about growers’ concerns over EPA’s actions on pesticide regulation that are not transparent and based on science. NAWG works to ensure access to crop protection tools, considering recent announcements by the US Fish and Wildlife Service about the potential listing of a honey bee and the Monarch butterfly as endangered species. Ongoing efforts within the Monarch Collaborative and the Honey Bee Health Coalition support dialogue and collaboration on efforts to create habitat.

NAWG continued to pursue the legal case to ensure that treated seeds were not regulated as pesticides, participating in a lawsuit with CropLife America, the American Seed Trade Association and several other agriculture groups. The NAWG position was in support of EPA and their treatment of treated seeds.

NAWG also continue to work on sustainability issues through Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. NAWG Vice President David Schemm serves on the Field to Market Board, working to ensure that growers’ views are represented in sustainability discussions with food companies and retailers.

NAWG worked with NRCS to highlight the actions of agricultural producers in the Chesapeake Bay where NAWG Board Member Eric Spates and US Wheat Chairman Jason Scott, both from Maryland, participated in a roundtable discussion with USDA Secretary Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller. Agricultural leaders from the Chesapeake Bay states came together to discuss the impacts of voluntary conservation on agricultural lands and the benefits to water quality and habitat in the region.

(L-R) NAWG Board Member Eric Spates, NRCS Chief Jason Weller, U.S. Wheat Chairman Jason Scott, USDA Secretary Vilsack at USDA Chesapeake Bay Roundtable.

NAWG provided updated information to growers and states regarding the ongoing changes to the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program. NRCS rolled out the revised CSP program in September and NAWG staff participated in briefings and discussions with the agency about the new application process and revised conservation enhancements/activities offered through the program.

Vice President David Schemm and NRCS National Program Manager Mark Rose discuss Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) at the Agriculture Media Summit in St. Louis, MO, in July.
Financial Report

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WHEAT GROWERS FINANCIAL REPORT

NAWG Financials, July 1, 2016 - September 30, 2016

NATIONAL WHEAT FOUNDATION FINANCIAL REPORT

NWF Financials, July 1, 2016 - September 30, 2016
Photos provided by Alabama Farmers Federation, Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers, Texas Wheat Growers, and Maryland Grain Producers Association.

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