NAWG Weekly Update July 14, 2016

GMO Labeling Bill Heading to White House 
This afternoon, the House passed the GMO labeling agreement designed by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, by a vote of 306-117. The Senate passed the bill last Thursday by a vote of 63 to 30, advancing the agreement on to the House this week, and now the bill will be on the President’s desk to sign into law. In 2014, President Obama wrote to Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and notable wheat researcher Norman Borlaug, publicly stating his support for biotechnology and his belief, shared with Norman Borlaug, that biotech will be part of a solution to the planet’s agricultural programs. NAWG encourages President Obama to stand by the statement by signing this important bill into law and creating real progress in achieving public acceptance of biotechnology. This bill is a crucial step forward in informing customers about a safe and sustainable technology to ensure access to affordable food for consumers. The labeling options allowed in this law will encourage public acceptance of this reliable technology, while preempting the state-by-state patchwork that Vermont’s law alongside other potential future state laws could cause. This technology, which has been proven safe for human consumption, is one of the most reliable ways forward in assuring global food security and access to sustainably-produced food.

“We applaud the House’s action in clearing this bill and sending it to President Obama,” said NAWG President Gordon Stoner. “We urge him to see that this bill will inform consumers about the technologies which make their food safe and affordable, and we hope that he will sign it immediately. It is crucial that American consumers receive clear and simple information about their food, so that they will see the benefit of these technologies that supply safe, sustainably-produced food.”
NAWG supports the House’s passing of this bill, and strongly urges President Obama to sign the bill into law as soon as possible.

Low Prices Trigger Loan Rates in Some Areas
With Hard Red Winter wheat harvest wrapping up in the southern plains and in full force moving north, low harvest-time prices have triggered the availability of marketing assistance loans (MALs) and loan deficiency payments (LDPs) for the first time in several years.  MALs are available to producers at harvest time and intended to provide interim financing for farmer to help them meet cashflow needs without having to sell their commodities.  Farmers can then delay selling the commodity until market conditions improve.  In using a MAL, a farmer can repay the loan at less than the loan rate (plus accrued interest).  A farmer could also get an LDP in lieu of securing a MAL.  Rates change daily; farmers can check rates at their county FSA office or by visiting this website.

Note, in order to be eligible for MALs and LDPs, a farmer must retain beneficial interest in the commodity, which requires both the farmer’s control of the commodity as well as title to the commodity.  A farmer should fill out a form from FSA specifying they retain beneficial interest even before they seek an MAL or LDP.

Additionally, it should be noted that if the MAL is repaid at less than the loan principal, that difference is called a marketing loan gain (MLG), which is subject to the aggregate $125,000 payment limit (ARC, PLC, and marketing loan gains are all combined into one single payment limit) and Adjusted Gross Income limitations.  A farmer also has the option of purchasing a Commodity Certificate which they can exchange for the outstanding loan collateral instead of forfeiting that loan collateral.  Gains realized through the use of a Commodity Certificate are not subject to the payment limitation.  More information can be found in this FSA fact sheet.

Record Wheat Harvest Nation Wide, Farmers Urged to Enter Yield Contest
All across the United States, farmers are reporting record wheat yields. A recent NASS report indicates that the 2016 winter wheat crop is forecasted at 1.63 billion bushels, up 8 percent from the June 1 forecast and up 19 percent from production in 2015. The same report predicts yields of 53.9 bushels per acre, which would be up 3.4 bushels from the June prediction and up 11.4 bushels from last year’s production. These high yields are a testament to farmer utilization of new methodologies, improved weather conditions, and the safety net provided through Title programs and crop insurance. With these high yields, NAWG is strongly encouraging producers to show off their hard work and enter in the National Wheat Yield Contest that is being sponsored by the National Wheat Foundation. The deadline for entering is August 1, and you can apply easily on the website right here.

EPA-Interior Department Appropriations Bill Passed by the House Floor
This week, the U.S. House approved legislation funding the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other related agencies, providing a total of $32 billion, which is $64 million below the FY16 enacted level and $1 billion below the President’s request. The EPA’s funding is provided at $7.98 billion, which is $165 million below FY16 enacted level and $291 million below the President’s request. Included in this bill is a prohibition implementing the Administration’s recent changes to the definition of waters of the U.S. under the “Clean Water Act”. The bill also delays changes to the listing status of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. During floor consideration, the House passed an amendment to raise the threshold for farm oil storage that is subject to Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements. The provision would increase the single above-ground container storage to 10,000 gallons and increase the aggregate level to 42,000 gallons. NAWG supports the inclusion of these policy provisions in the annual funding bill.

Scientists Unravel Durum Wheat Genome Sequence 
A research network of scientists from several research organizations such as the Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), and Montana State University have announced the assembly of the durum wheat genome, the source of semolina, which is the key ingredient in pasta. Under the leadership of Dr. Luigi Cattivelli of the Italian CREA and several other international scientists, the collaborative network, funded by the several of the organizations, has worked with NRGene and Genomix4life to utilize software to produce a complete referential analysis of the genome. With an exponentially growing population, pasta is a food staple of the world for every culture. With the ability to locate precise genes and regulatory elements of the genome, researchers will be provided with invaluable tools and opportunities for wheat breeders.

“It’s critical to select new durum cultivars with greater yield potential as well as enhanced quality and nutritional properties,” said Dr. Luigi Cattivelli, who lead the research efforts of the international team. Now that the entire genome of the durum variety has been genetically mapped out, scientist will be able to identify and select new cultivars to improve the quality and yield of the crop for future harvest. NAWG supports the groundbreaking research efforts that were made and firmly believes that this is a step towards more sustainable varieties of wheat in an attempt at global food security.

NAWG Submits Official Comments to EPA Regarding RFS Proposed Rule
In reaction to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule setting blending targets under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2017, NAWG submitted official commentary on July 11, 2016. In commenting on the proposal, NAWG reiterates its support for the levels set by Congress and urges the EPA to follow the levels set by Congress. The RFS was adopted in 2005, and expanded in 2007, and was meant to implement a stable policy to promote innovation and investment in renewable fuels that will maximize biorefining capacity and distribution infrastructure to ensure access to biofuels for American consumers. This policy has since then produced hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in biofuels, leading to expanded production capacity of biofuels, the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, the reduction of the environmental impact of the transportation and energy sectors and benefit to the agriculture economy. The EPA now has proposed to reduce the 2017 Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) under the RFS, which would send the wrong market signals and impact agricultural markets and investment in new technology, as well as cellulosic biofuels production. It is imperative that continued investment in biofuels is prioritized, as rural, agricultural communities will be impacted the hardest by a reduction in the proposed RVO. NAWG supports the RFS the way Congress originally passed it, and opposes the EPA’s proposed reduction. NAWG feels that altering the RFS would negatively impact future investments in the next generation of biofuels. In addition to the threat that future investments in biofuels could potentially decline due to changes in the RVO, indicating that the RFS is not a priority and a consistent requirement could make investors wary to committing funds to alternative resources. NAWG believes that setting the RVO levels in accordance with Congressional ruling will ensure access to and investment in renewable fuels.