NAWG Weekly Update, May 18, 2017

House Ag Committee Holds Hearing on State of the Rural Economy

On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the “State of the Rural Economy” with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue testifying. The hearing focused on a variety of issues ranging from crop insurance, the reorganization of the rural development office within the USDA, trade, and more. Secretary Purdue made comments before answering questions from members of the committee.

In his testimony, Secretary Purdue and several members of congress stated support for expanding trade and crop insurance. “We are fortunate to live in a nation where we grow more than we consume and that’s the essence of trade,” Secretary Perdue stated. He highlighted the USDA reorganization which created the Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs which will be responsible for assisting on opening new and protecting current markets as well as working to support interagency efforts with the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative.

On crop insurance, Representative Roger Marshall (KS-1) made note of the recent blizzards in Kansas and stated, “Disasters like the ones we have had in Kansas are prime examples of reasons to have a strong farm safety net”. This sentiment was reiterated by Secretary Purdue and other members of congress. NAWG President, David Schemm commented following the hearing, “Between a rapidly declining market and years of sustained low prices, farmers are having a difficultly getting by, particularly young and beginning farmers who weren’t able to build up reserves during the high price years. Funding in the 2018 Farm Bill must be increased to address the significant reductions in farm prices and income incurred since 2013.”

Other issues of importance addressed during the hearing included support for inland waterway infrastructure updates, broadband internet access in rural areas, and the necessity of the rural development in the nation.

Administration Sends Congress NAFTA Notification Letter

On May 18, 2017, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress that President Trump intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In the letter to Congress, Ambassador Lighthizer expresses the Trump Administration’s commitment to concluding the negotiations with timely and substantive results for U.S. consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers. Negotiations will begin no earlier than August 16, 2017. President Trump announced the United States’ intention to engage in negotiations related to NAFTA on February 2, 2017. Since then, USTR has begun consultations with committees of jurisdiction in Congress and advisory committees, as outlined by TPA. Text of USTR Letters to Congressional Leadership

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) issued a joint press release in response to the negotiation letter. In the release, USW and NAWG urge the Administration to use caution. “The U.S. wheat industry welcomes the opportunity for improving the framework for cross border wheat trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but would strongly oppose changes that might limit the current NAFTA’s benefits for wheat farmers and their customers, particularly in the Mexican food processing industries.”

Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee Approved Regulatory Accountability Act

On May 17, 2017, the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee approved the bipartisan regulatory reform bill introduced by Senators Portman and Heitkamp. Portman and Heitkamp’s Regulatory Accountability Act would reform the federal regulatory process to cut red tape so federal programs operate as intended, and are effective and efficient for those just trying to do their jobs. The measure is based on bipartisan executive orders from the past five presidents, and it would result in a more transparent, accountable regulatory process that would yield more effective regulatory outcomes for American businesses, workers, and their families.

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are original cosponsors of the bill.  A full summary of the bill can be found here, a comparison between the House and Senate bills here, and the text here.

Next steps are for the bill to move to the Senate floor for consideration – the House passed a similar bill earlier this year. NAWG supports the Regulatory Accountability Act. 

USDA Approves Modifications to Margin Protection Plan of Insurance

On Tuesday, May 15, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced greater crop insurance options for farmers against unexpected decreases in their operating margin. Offered through the federal crop insurance program, margin protection insurance for corn, wheat, rice and soybeans will be available in more states and have updates designed to better clarify the real input costs covered beginning in 2018.

NAWG applauds this news and welcomes any effort from the USDA to increase grower access to crop insurance. 

EPA Re-Opens Comment Period for Pyrethroids

On November 29, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of and solicited public comment on the registration review draft risk assessments for a number of pesticide chemicals, including several pyrethroid insecticides listed in Table 1 of Unit II. and the herbicide linuron listed in Table 2 of Unit II. The Agency officially re-opened the comment period until July 7 on its preliminary ecological risk assessment for the class of insecticides, used on a wide variety of food and fruit crops, including apples, almonds, citrus, corn, soybean and alfalfa. The Pyrethroid Working Group has prepared a website to help growers submit comments.

NAWG is working through the Environment and Renewable Resources Committee to develop written comments that will be submitted prior to the deadline.

NAWG Submits Comments to EPA’s Request for Comments on Improving Regulatory Review

On May 15, 2017, NAWG submitted individual and joint comments to EPA’s request for information on re-evaluating existing regulations, Docket number: EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190. In the comments, NAWG identifies several regulations that we believe deserve re-evaluation and support the broader agriculture community.