NAWG Weekly Update: March 19, 2015

Tonsager Joins Wheat Growers’ Policy Team
This week NAWG announced the addition of Joshua Tonsager to lead the organization’s Washington-based government affairs team. Tonsager will serve as legislative director for NAWG, overseeing the policy team and leading the associations work on transportation and research and technology issues. Most recently, Tonsager served as a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Former Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota. His issue portfolio included agriculture, trade, economic development and appropriations. Prior to joining Senator Johnson’s staff, Tonsager served as a Research Assistant for Former Senator Johnson. Tonsager received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of South Dakota.  Tonsager can be reached at

National Wheat Improvement Committee Hits the Hill
The National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC) gathered this week in Washington, D.C. to discuss important wheat research issues. NWIC began their trip speaking with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Youngs thanking the agency for their support of wheat research projects and looking forward to continued partnership. The remainder of their trip was spent speaking with congressional offices highlighting the benefits of wheat research efforts and ARS funding as well as and the importance of continuing funding for specific programs like the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, Small Grains Genomic Initiative and Triticeae Coordinated Agriculture Project (TCAP).

NWIC is comprised of wheat researchers and wheat growers from across the country. “In my thirty years in wheat research, I have never been as excited about the scientific and technological opportunities being revealed by our applied and basic researchers in the USDA, Land-Grant and private company sectors across the country,” said NWIC Chairman Paul Murphy. “I am humbled by the level of stakeholder support from organizations such as NAWG, who are unflinching in their advocacy for wheat research on Capitol Hill.

This annual event is an opportunity to educate stakeholders on Capitol Hill and at USDA about the importance of wheat research projects around the country and to emphasize the need for consistent, adequate funding even in tough budget times.

NWF Hosts Full Crowd for National Ag Day Briefing
In celebration of National Ag Day on March 18, the National Wheat Foundation (NWF) hosted a bagel breakfast and educational briefing on Capitol Hill. The event filled the Senate Ag Committee Hearing Room with more than 100 industry representatives, Hill staff, embassy staff, and media participating in a forward-looking discussion about innovation and the next generation of agriculture.

The panel of industry experts included:

–       Gordon Stoner; Vice President, NAWG

–       Matt Erickson; Chief Economist, Senate Agriculture Committee

–       David Van Sanford; Professor of Plant and Soil Science, University of Kentucky

NWF Chairman Dusty Tallman moderated the discussion that emphasized the importance of a cooperative industry approach to advancing agriculture – not only production agriculture, but the entire farm-to-table industry.

NAWG Submits Comments on Ozone Regulations
In comments filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NAWG expressed concern over the proposed changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone. EPA’s proposed regulation would lower the ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65-70 ppb or as low as 60 ppb. The lower standards could impact managed burning plans that several state associations have negotiated with their state regulatory agencies. A new, lower standard set by EPA would require states to implement new plans to meet air quality standards. NAWG asked for additional time for the existing standards, which were set just six years ago, to remain in place and to allow for additional reductions in ozone levels. A copy of the letter is available here.

House Agriculture Committee Approves Pesticide Bill
Today, the House Agriculture Committee approved HR. 897, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act. Currently EPA requires a Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit or individual permit for anyone that will discharge pollutants from point sources into waters of the U.S., including pesticide applications. In 2009 the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in National Cotton Council v. EPA that the discharge into waters of the U.S. of biological and chemical pesticides that leave a residue are a pollutant. Prior to this lawsuit, the EPA did not consider pesticides pollutants, but regulated the use of pesticides under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. With pesticide applications now falling under the Clean Water Act, several provisions of the law apply – including daily fines of up to $37,500 for violations and citizen lawsuits in addition to the NPDES permit requirement. EPA is also in the process of finalizing a regulation on waters of the U.S., potentially increasing the waters that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and subsequently increasing pesticide applications requiring a permit. NAWG several agriculture groups in sending a letter of support to members of the House Agriculture Committee.

Agriculture Committees Focus on Clean Water Act Regulation
This week the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee held a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulation on waters of the U.S. NAWG signed on as a supporter to testimony presented by National Cotton Council Chairman Sledge Taylor. Also supporting the testimony were: American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Sorghum Producers, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, USA Rice Federation, and Western Peanut Growers. The testimony focused on the agriculture industry’s concerns with the regulation and asked that any action taken by the EPA be available for public comment again before being finalized.

The Senate Agriculture Committee also announced a full committee hearing on the same topic scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 10 am. To listen to this hearing next week, please visit the Senate Agriculture Committee website here.