NAWG Weekly Update: June 12, 2014

WRRDA Signed Into Law
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 was signed into law on Tuesday. “NAWG is pleased the president signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 into law today,” commented NAWG President, Paul Penner, a wheat farmer from Hillsboro, Kan. “This bipartisan bill signals how vital our inland waterways system is; both to America’s wheat farmers and to our nation’s economy as a whole. The bill also provides much needed regulatory relief for farmers by increasing the storage capacity for exemptions and self-certification for on farm aboveground storage tanks.”

WRRDA seeks to increase funding for waterway development projects, such as deepening waterways and lock and dam repairs and upgrades. The bill is especially important to America’s wheat farmers, who rely on many inland waterways, such as the Columbia River system in the Pacific Northwest, to ship their wheat to port before being exported abroad. Click here to view the full report.

House Debates FY15 Agriculture Appropriations Bill
The House took up the fiscal year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill on Wednesday, voting on a series of amendments late Wednesday evening. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) offered an amendment on food aid during the debate, which passed with a 223-198 vote. Royce’s amendment would provide $10 million for overseas food aid purchases, a concept heavily debated and defeated during the farm bill process. NAWG is opposed to using U.S. taxpayer dollars to purchase food grown by subsidized foreign competitors or food for which quality and safety is not guaranteed. Additionally, the farm bill includes over $1 billion in foreign food aid by purchasing American grown food. It is unknown when the House plans to continue the debate on the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, but NAWG hopes to continue to work with the House and Senate on this issue.

 NAWG Attends USW Annual Meeting
This week NAWG officers and staff attended the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) annual meeting in Omaha, Neb. Staff and officers were busy with committee meetings including the Joint Biotechnology Committee and the Joint International Trade and Policy Committee as well at the National Wheat Foundation Board Meeting. Roy Motter, a wheat farmer from Brawley, Calif., was named the new USW chairman and a new officer team was installed. USW is the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry.

 Wheat Growers Push for Passage of Pesticide Permitting Bill
NAWG is requesting support from Members of Congress for H.R. 935, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act.  H.R. 935 would eliminate the requirement for a Clean Water Act National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit when applying pesticides. Due to a 2009 court decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA, certain pesticide applications require an NPDES permit in addition to regulation through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Farmers and pesticide applicators apply based on label rates and the label is the law. Additional environmental protections do not result from the NPDES permit, only additional paperwork and possible citizen lawsuits and fines of up to $37,500 per day. We encourage all growers to contact their representatives in support of H.R. 935 to eliminate this unnecessary permit. NAWG policy supports passage of H.R. 935.

U.S. Botanic Gardens Hosts Festival Highlighting Wheat
NAWG will be joining farmers, bakers, millers, wheat weaves, and educators at the U.S. Botanic Gardens June 14, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm as part of the Amber Waves of Grain Family Festival. The festival will showcase the wonderful world of wheat through numerous opportunities to learn about the six classes of wheat, participate in hands on learning activities, wheat weaving, baking demonstrations and other activities.  The exhibit also honors the addition of Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, to the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol on March 25, the 100th anniversary of his birth. In addition to the outdoor exhibit, a panel exhibit highlighting Dr. Borlaug’s research is located in the Garden’s West Gallery. Dr. Borlaug is credited for saving more than 1 billion people from starvation through his development of high-yielding, semi-dwarf wheat. For more information on the festival, click here.

EPA extends Water Regulation Comment Period as Congress takes Action
This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an extension of the comment periods for the Waters of the U.S. Regulation and the Interpretive Rule regarding the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practices. The new deadline for submitting comments is October 20 for the regulation and July 7 for the interpretive rule. NAWG joined several agriculture groups last month in requesting an extension of the comment period. The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee and the House Agriculture Committee are conducting reviews of the regulation. On Wednesday, EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy testified regarding the regulation. The House T&I Committee also heard from outside groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, Western Governors Association, the National Water Resources Association, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Home Builders and the American Sustainable Business Council regarding the potential impacts of the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act regulation. Next week, the House Agriculture Committee will focus on the Interpretive Rule related to NRCS conservation practice standards and hear from Robert Bonnie, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment.

Cantor Loses Primary; Resigns as Majority Leader
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lost his GOP primary Tuesday night to a relatively unknown tea party candidate, David Brat.  Cantor’s loss came as a huge shock and marks the first time in history a sitting Majority Leader lost a primary election.  Brat, an economics professor at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va., received 55 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 45 percent. In a press conference held yesterday Cantor announced that he would step down as Majority Leader on July 31 and didn’t entertain any questions as to what his next steps might be. The front-runner to replace Cantor is current Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The House will be holding leadership elections next Thursday, June 19.

Syngenta Announces Good Growth Grant Contest
Syngenta has announced it will support aspiring agricultural entrepreneurs through The Good Growth Grant Contest. Wheat and other commodity growers who have novel and innovative ideas on how to sustainably improve agricultural production are invited to submit their ideas to the contest for a chance to win a $20,000 grand prize grant or one of three $10,000 runner-up grant rewards. Grant funding is intended to help winners get their innovative ideas off the ground. Grower ideas must address one of the following six areas: improve crop production efficiency, rescue more farmland, help biodiversity flourish, empower smallholder farmers, increase farm safety or improve fair labor conditions. The contest is part of Syngenta’s global Good Growth Grant program. All submissions must be received by July 14. Click here for more information on the contest.