NAWG Weekly Update: March 26, 2015

Senate and House Consider Budget Resolutions
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted its FY 2016 budget resolution on a vote of 228-199. The version of the budget resolution approved by the full House reflects the version passed by the House Budget Committee last week, but it includes an additional $2 billion for a particular Defense account.

During floor consideration, the House rejected a number of alternative budget proposals, including a proposal from the Republican Study Committee that would have called for the elimination of funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program. The final version adopted by the House does include reconciliation instructions for the Agriculture Committee to find $1 billion in reductions over 10 years in mandatory programs.

The Senate is still considering its budget resolution with amendment votes anticipated to extend through Thursday night. There were a number of amendments introduced that could impact crop insurance and the farm programs, including amendments from Senator Flake (R-AZ) that would eliminate premium subsidies on policies utilizing the Harvest Price Option, limiting premium support for producers with an AGI above $750,000, and calling for disclosure of participants in the crop insurance program; an amendment from Senator Shaheen (D-NH) that would call for a premium support cap of $50,000 annually; and an amendment from Senator Booker (D-NJ) that would call for a reduction in the AGI cap for Title 1 farm programs. NAWG is opposed to these amendments and we ask that you contact your Senate offices today (Thursday) to oppose any amendment that would undermine crop insurance or that would reopen the Farm Bill.

House Hearing on Biotechnology
On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on mandatory biotechnology labeling laws. The Committee heard from six witnesses on the harm mandatory biotech labeling laws would bring to the agriculture industry and consumers. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) said in his opening statement, “Biotechnology is an essential tool for farmers to have in the toolbox if we plan to feed an estimated 10 billion people by the year 2050 in an environmentally sound, sustainable and affordable way.” You can watch the full hearing here.

Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act Introduced
NAWG applauds the introduction of legislation that will create a national, science-based labeling standard for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and urges Congress to quickly pass the bill. The legislation, which will ensure that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains the authority on food safety and labeling standards in the United States, was introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). Currently, a growing patchwork of mandatory state labeling laws threatens to harm interstate commerce, drive up the price of food and increase consumer confusion. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act will ensure labeling decisions are established by science based, uniform standards that are consistent in every grocery store in all 50 states.

“We are pleased by the introduction of this bipartisan legislation. A uniform standard will bring the clarity desired by the consumer while ensuring they have direct access to fact-based, accurate information about how their food is grown, which is just not possible through conflicting state-by-state labeling laws,” said Brett Blankenship, NAWG president and wheat grower from Washtucna, Wash.

See NAWG’s complete release here.

Senate Commerce Committee Approves STB Reform Bill
On Wednesday, March 25, the Senate Commerce Committee adopted by voice vote legislation (S. 808) introduced by Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) that would reauthorize and reform the Surface Transportation Board (STB). NAWG supports the legislation, which includes several important reforms to the STB, including: an increase in the number of board members from three to five; transparency requirements to ensure the reporting of the nature and disposition of complaints considered by the STB; the establishment of a voluntary arbitration process to resolve disputes; and the new ability of the STB to initiate investigations without having to wait for a formal complaint to be filed.

Senate Agriculture Committee Hears About “Murky” Clean Water Act Regulation
In a hearing this week, the Senate Agriculture Committee heard testimony from state and local officials, a livestock producer, a mosquito control district and a rural co-op regarding the proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation. Those testifying overwhelmingly supported the development of a new regulation stressing that EPA should undertake more consultation with states prior to issuing a regulation. During debate on the FY16 budget, the Senate passed related amendments expressing concern over the proposed regulation. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) amendment addressed maintaining the agriculture exemptions under the Clean Water Act and passed 99-0, and Senator John Barrasso’s (R-WY) amendment, which passed 59-40, addressed limiting the applicability of the regulation to puddles, isolated ponds, roadside ditches, irrigation ditches, storm water systems, wastewater systems and water delivery.

NAWG Expresses Concern Over Glyphosate Reclassification
NAWG expressed concern about the claims of a recent, stand-alone report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that moves to reclassify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

“The claims by the IARC are very troubling and are not based on any new science. More than 25 years of analysis from global regulatory bodies and the international scientific community assessing updated data and peer-reviewed literature has consistently provided the same evidence: The toxicity levels of glyphosate are low, and glyphosate is not carcinogenic,” said NAWG President Brett Blankenship. “The discrepancy between 25 years of scientific analysis and one report, which was based on a limited amount of data, cannot be ignored. Consumers can have faith that U.S. farmers and ranchers, including wheat growers, work tirelessly to provide the safest possible food for our families and theirs. NAWG stands side by side with our industry partners and allies in supporting farmers’ conscientious use of glyphosate.”

View the full statement here.