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.
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.
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.
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.