NAWG Weekly Update: June 4, 2015

NPDES Fix Reintroduced in Senate
Yesterday Senators Crapo (R-ID) and McCaskill (D-MO) reintroduced legislation to end the need for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for certain pesticide applications. “NAWG applauds the introduction of this legislation that would bring regulatory clarity on pesticide applications and we urge the Senate to pass the bill,” said NAWG President, Brett Blankenship, wheat grower from Washtucna, Wash. in today’s statement. “Growers are stewards of the land. Farmers are the original environmentalists. We follow application guidelines established by the EPA when applying any crop protection product to our field.”

Pesticide applications are regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) with restrictions listed on the FIFRA- approved label. Since 2011, an additional Clean Water Act NPDES permit has been required for certain pesticide applications. Those found out of compliance could be subject to daily fines. The legislation introduced this week would eliminate the need for the Clean Water Act permit, but retain the FIFRA regulation and any appropriate use restrictions on the label.

NAWG Comments on Conservation Compliance Rule 
On April 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its conservation compliance rule for federal crop insurance premium support. The rule is available here for review and comment; the 60-day public comment period ends on June 23, 2015. Throughout this process, USDA stressed the importance of the June 1 deadline for submitting the AD-1026 form. NAWG has heard concerns from producers about implementation of these requirements for crop insurance premium support eligibility, particularly since the Risk Management Agency (RMA) has not been involved with processing AD-1026 forms. To convey those concerns, NAWG joined with a broad coalition of agriculture, lending, crop insurance, and conservation organizations in submitting comments seeking clarification on the rule.

The comments ask USDA to reconcile differences between FSA and RMA records to ensure there is clear and effective communication between the agencies, the Approved Insurance Providers and companies; to clarify whether producers would be able to cancel or reduce a policy if they are found to be out of compliance after the sales closing date; to clarify the treatment of land purchased after the June 1 AD-1026 submission deadline; to clarify the treatment of crop insurance products that are made available after June 1; and to clarify the exceptions that are offered for producers who begin farming after June 1.

House Agriculture Committee Reviews Foreign Ag Subsidies
The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to explore the structure and extent of agricultural subsidies in other countries. The Committee heard from Craig Thorn, a partner with DTB Associates in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Darren Hudson, Director of the International Center for Agricultural Competitiveness (ICAC) at Texas Tech University. DTB Associates had conducted a study sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates and the USA Rice Federation quantifying the degree to which several other countries subsidize their agricultural industries, including China, India, Brazil, Turkey and Thailand. His testimony similarly addressed how other countries are subsidizing production to levels outside of their WTO commitments and are not transparent in terms of reporting their subsidies. Dr. Hudson’s testimony included information about ICAC’s database, which ranks countries’ support programs, in terms of exceeding their trade commitments. According to this database, the United States’ system of subsidies and tariffs is low on the list.

NAWG has been following this issue closely, and will continue to defend crop insurance and the new Title 1 programs included in the 2014 farm bill. Additionally, NAWG continues to believe that we need a level playing field in the world market in order to be able to compete fairly. This hearing provided an opportunity for Members of Congress to get a sense of the degree to which other countries are violating their WTO commitments as well as a better understanding of the enforcement mechanisms available through the WTO. Additional information about the hearing, including links to witness testimony, can be found here.

House Holds Hearing on Financial Health of Farm Country 
This week NAWG attended the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management hearing on the financial health of farm country. The hearing included a panel of farmers and state commodity organization leaders and an economist. Witnesses discussed the increase in agricultural risk, while commodity prices have decreased and market pressures have intensified. Farmers today are battling more than weather conditions and market prices. Witnesses were also troubled by foreign trade policies. The combination of these issues creates stress on the future of American agriculture. Crop insurance protects farmers from price variation. However, it does not serve as the security blanket for foreign trade market protection. Members also raised concerns about area-wide trigger programs.

Each witness spoke on behalf of the current land prices and rental agreements in their home states and all agreed that prices boil down to the tenant-landowner relationship. All witnesses said that agreements will be adjusting due to the current market and land prices have been softening.

NAWG Concerned about EPA Actions on the RFS
Last week the Environmental Protection Agency finally released the renewable volumetric requirements for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for 2014, 2015, and 2016. EPA’s decision to lower the requirements below the levels set by Congress is concerning to NAWG for the precedent it sets for developing additional biofuels markets. This action sends the wrong signals for future investments into next generation biofuels. NAWG supports the RFS and other programs that will spur production of renewable fuels utilizing biomass, such as wheat straw and other agricultural by-products. The EPA proposal is open for public comment until July 27 and the Agency will hold a public hearing in Kansas City on June 25.

SNEAK PEAK: National Donut Day is Tomorrow! 
Move over Thanksgiving, a sweeter holiday has tickled our taste buds and launched the country into an all-day sugarcoated coma! Tomorrow we will be honoring a true culinary masterpiece, the donut, on The Word on Wheat blog.

Join us in thanking America’s wheat farmers by enjoying a donut and sharing your photos with us on social media. Use #DonutDay #Wheat or tag @NationalWheat on Facebook and Twitter to celebrate with us.