NAWG Weekly Update: December 11, 2014

Cromnibus Conquers (Updated 12/12/14)
After a week of frantic negotiations and strange bedfellows, the House of Representatives passed its $1.1 trillion continuing resolution omnibus package (CRomnibus) at just before 10:00PM last night, which will fund the government through September and the Department of Homeland Security until February.  Passed by a thin margin of 219-206, the bill’s victory was due in large part to the successful partnership of President Barack Obama, Speaker John Boehner, and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer against an equally strange coalition of convenience opposing the package, made up of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Tea Party Republicans.  The battle to avoid a government shutdown now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to expedite its passage.  President Obama is also expected to sign the bill.

NAWG President participates in CFTC Ag Advisory Committee Meetings
NAWG President Paul Penner represented wheat growers at this week’s meeting of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Agricultural Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C.  The meeting focused on issues related to deliverable supplies of agricultural commodities as they pertain to position limits and the agricultural economy “I would like to thank the Commission for putting this Advisory Committee together and inviting the National Association of Wheat Growers to participate,” Penner said. “This committee gives wheat growers, as well as other concerned stakeholders across our industry, the opportunity to voice their concerns regarding the commodity futures industry directly to the regulating body that oversees it.”

Committee Examines FDA’s Role in the Regulation of Genetically Modified Food 
NAWG attended the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee hearing to examine the FDA’s Role in the Regulation of genetically modified food ingredients on Wednesday. The hearing, chaired by Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), examined a proposed federal bill that would ban states from requiring labels to flag food containing genetically modified organisms. The chairman stated that forcing businesses to comply with a potential myriad of differing and contradictory labeling laws, one for each state, would be undue, stating that it is the job of Congress to regulate interstate commerce and create a universal GMO labeling policy.

The bill was proposed by Representative Mark Pompeo (R-KS), and if passed, would strike a major blow to the multi-state effort to make producers label GMO-containing products.  NAWG is in favor of the voluntary labeling of products by their producer, but is against mandated GMO labeling, as the preponderance of research shows that GMOs have no adverse effect on consumers. The hearing’s panelists included Michael M. Landa from USFDA, Dr. Allison Van Eenennaam from UC Davis, Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, Rep. Kate Webb of the Vermont House of Representatives, Stacey Forshee from Kansas Farm Bureau, and Tom Dempsey of the Snack Food Association.

USDA Releases Conservation Regulation
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) released another regulation today, implementing the changes from the 2014 Farm Bill. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) regulation will be printed in the Federal Register tomorrow, but an advanced copy is available for review here. The most significant change to the EQIP program in the 2014 Farm Bill is the merging of the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) into EQIP with the inclusion of the a five percent set-aside of funding for wildlife practices. The changes to EQIP will be effective once the regulation is published and NRCS will accept comments for 60 days. NRCS is also currently accepting comments on the Conservation Stewardship Program regulation released in November. NAWG will be working through the Environment and Renewable Resources Committee to prepare comments on both regulations.

NAWG Attends Farm Journal Forum in Washington, D.C.
NAWG attended the Farm Journal Forum 2014 this week in Washington, D.C.  Sponsored by Monsanto, DuPont and Verdesian, the forum featured a day of panel discussions and expert Q&A portions.  Senator Debbie Stabenow, who currently chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, opened the forum on an optimistic note by referencing the successful passing of a bipartisan Farm Bill by the Senate.  She was followed by a panel on global agricultural economic outlook provided by Bruce Scherr of Informa Economics, who stated that American agriculture is poised to control global food prices like Saudi Arabia controls oil.  A panel titled “The Youth Quotient” focused on how young farmers can change the way farmers connect with consumers, and featured Anna Sumi of GW Planet Forward, Greg Peterson of The Peterson Family Farm Brothers YouTube channel, Amelia Woods of Tyson’s Food Ambassador program, and Mallory Weber of HungerU.  The forum also featured a trade policy panel titled “Is Doha Dead?” and a demonstration of new ag drone technology.  Secretary Tom Vilsack was in attendance and gave a very passionate and forceful assessment of USDA’s recent successes, as well as a favorable future outlook.  He assured attendees that, while people complain that Washington isn’t working and that there is too much partisan gridlock, he can promise farmers that the USDA is not only working, but working hard and getting results.

New Republican House Agriculture Committee Membership Named
Incoming House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) named the new Republican house members who will be seated on the House Agriculture Committee. They are listed below. A final Committee membership list has not been announced yet.
·         Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-2)
·         Rep. Ralph Abraham (LA-5)
·         Rep. Rick Allen (GA-12)
·         Rep. Mike Bost (IL-12)
·         Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-6)
·         Rep. John Moolenaar (MI-4)
·         Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-4)
·         Rep. David Rouzer (NC-12)

House Agriculture Committee Reorganizes Subcommittees for 114thCongress
Incoming House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) announced a reorganization of subcommittees to the House Agriculture Committee. In the 114th Congress there will be six subcommittees under the Committee, whereas previously they have had five subcommittees. To note, commodity exchanges has been separated out of the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee into a subcommittee in charge of energy and credit issues, nutrition has been given its own subcommittee and livestock and foreign agriculture have been combined. The full subcommittees list is:
·         General Farm Commodities and Risk Management
·         Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit
·         Conservation and Forestry
·         Nutrition
·         Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research
·         Livestock and Foreign Agriculture

USDA Chief Economist Retires
The USDA Chief Economist Dr. Joe Glauber announced his retirement on Thursday, December 11. The current USDA Deputy Chief Economist Dr. Robert Johansson, who has held this position since 2012, will serve as Acting Chief Economist starting on January 1. He has a Ph. D. in agriculture economics from University of Minnesota.

In a press statement Agriculture Secretary Vilsack said, “No one has a higher level of credibility on issues impacting the agricultural economy than Dr. Glauber. Farm country and, truly, the country as a whole have been extraordinarily well served by Joe throughout his 30 years of federal service. I will miss Joe’s expertise and wise counsel, and wish him well as he begins the next phase of his distinguished career.”