NAWG Weekly Update: June 25, 2015

TPA Moves to the Finish Line

In the last step of an extensive process, the Senate passed legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) on a 60-38 vote on Wednesday. The bill now heads to the President for his signature. This final vote followed multiple rounds of consideration by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and required that the Senate also vote on a separate trade preferences bill that would carry a provision to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a worker retraining program to assist those who lose their jobs as a result of trade agreements. The House approved the TAA reauthorization bill on Thursday, which now goes to the President for his signature.

Following the Wednesday vote on TPA, NAWG President Brett Blankenship released a statement.  “Wheat farmers commend the Senate and the House of Representatives for renewing their commitment to trade and reauthorizing Trade Promotion Authority. This TPA vote reaffirms America’s commitment to expanding agricultural trade and provides the tools necessary to develop strong trade relationships that are crucial to the success of the U.S. wheat industry.” Click here for the complete statement.

Senate Passes Legislation to Reform the Surface Transportation Board

On Thursday, June 18, the Senate passed the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S. 808) by unanimous consent. The legislation contains several important changes to the structure of the Board, including an increase in its membership from three to five members; transparency requirements to ensure the reporting of the nature and disposition of complaints considered by the Board; the establishment of a voluntary arbitration process to resolve disputes; and the new ability of the Board to initiate investigations without having to wait for a formal complaint to be filed. The House of Representatives has not yet considered its own reauthorization bill.

House Agriculture Committee Reviews Food Aid

On Wednesday, June 25, the House Agriculture Committee held its first hearing reviewing U.S. international food aid efforts. USAID’s Acting Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Thomas Staal and USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service Administrator Phil Karsting testified at the hearing.

The two testimonies requested additional flexibility in the Food for Peace program to include cash and vouchers systems. In his opening statement the Chairman stated, “it is prudent that we monitor the outcome of this added flexibility over the life of the Farm Bill to get a better sense of what is working and what needs to be improved.” The Committee leadership made it clear they wish to monitor the recent changes and keep the discussion of the future of the program in the context of the next Farm Bill. You can find testimonies and view the hearing here.

NAWG Joins Global Food Security Letter

Last week, NAWG signed onto a letter sent to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of both the House and Senate Agriculture and Foreign Affairs/Relations Committee addressing global food security. In the letter, commodity groups and international development organizations raised the issue that “by 2050, the world’s population is projected to grow by 30 percent, from 7.1 to 9.2 billion, and food demand will rise by as much as 60 percent.” The groups expressed the need to continue a whole-of-government approach to food security, emphasizing the importance of coordination with USDA and US agriculture to achieve increased agriculture production. Read the full letter here.

NAWG Participates in Ag Relations Council Annual Meeting

The Agricultural Relations Council (ARC), which is comprised of communications and industry relations professionals, held its annual meeting this week in Denver, Colorado. Participants discussed Colorado’s marijuana crop, pollinator health, crisis management and social media utilization measurement. They also had the opportunity to tour a JBS beef plant and examine global food production issues. At this week’s meeting, 2015 Wheat Organization Leaders of the Future (WOLF) program presenter Steve Drake was inducted into the ARC Hall of Fame.  WOLF is a national board member and state senior staff orientation program conducted by the National Wheat Foundation with funding provided by Bayer CropScience.

NAWG Attends BASF Symposium & 150th Anniversary

This week, NAWG Treasurer David Schemm attended the BASF Sustainable Food Chain from Field to Table Science Symposium and BASF’s 150th anniversary celebration in Chicago, IL. The symposium highlighted ongoing scientific research and included focused sessions on enhancing crop yield, plant science and food science. The science and chemistry needed to meet the demands a growing population was a common theme. BASF is the crop protection and founding partner of the National Wheat Foundation (NWF) National Wheat Yield Contest that launches early this fall.