NAWG Weekly Update: March 5, 2015

NAWG President Blankenship Attends White House Briefing
On Tuesday, NAWG’s newly elected president Brett Blankenship attended a briefing at the White House with senior Administration officials to discuss President Obama’s export and international trade agenda. Among the senior administration officials present were Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Ambassador Darci Vetter, who serves as Chief Agricultural Negotiator and U.S. Trade Representative. The briefing stressed the importance international trade holds in the future of American agriculture. In order to secure trade with Asian countries, the president requires Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to secure a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty. The TPP is key to a strategic pivot to Asia as the Asian middleclass continues to grow. The TPP covers a vital region for wheat exports, and will become a powerful model for future agreements. The U.S. needs to be in the lead on this trade agreement, which will encompass 40 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. NAWG supports the passage of TPA, the signing of TPP, and an expansion of international trade because many wheat growers’ bottom-lines are dependent upon Asian trade. It is imperative that the U.S. Congress help create the policy climate for the TPP to move forward. 

Senate Bill Introduced that would Provide Ag Industry Transportation Relief
Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced bi-partisan and bi-cameral legislation that would eliminate the burdensome regulation that requires agriculture industry professionals to obtain a hazardous material endorsement before transporting diesel fuel critical for a number of agricultural operations. The Senators’ legislation exempts agribusiness participants from the requirement to obtain a hazardous material endorsement, while operating a service vehicle carrying diesel fuel in quantities of 1,000 gallons or less, if the tank containing diesel fuel is clearly marked. Exempted parties include all custom harvesters, agriculture retailers, agriculture business employees, agriculture cooperative employees, or agriculture producers who hold a Class A Commercial Driver’s License. Under current regulations, any driver transporting more than 119 gallons of diesel fuel is required to obtain a Hazardous Materials endorsement on their Class A CDL. The bill was endorsed by a number of organizations including NAWG. Read the full press release here.

Commodity Classic 2015 Wraps Up
Commodity Classic 2015 set a total attendance record for the 20 year old event, with nearly 8,000 attendees last week in Phoenix, Ariz. Other records broken were the number of growers, at 4,328 (compared to 3,874 in 2014); and the number of first-time attendees, at 1,409 (compared to 1,261 in 2014). In addition to attending the event, NAWG also installed its new officer team. Washington wheat farmer Bret Blankenship was elected as the new President of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) at the Association’s Board of Directors meeting Thursday, Feb. 26.

Other NAWG officers elected and installed at the Thursday meeting include:
• Gordon Stoner, Outlook, Mont., Vice President
• David Schemm, Sharon Springs, Kans., Treasurer
• Jimmie Musick, Sentinel, Okla., Secretary
• Paul Penner, Hillsboro, Kans., Immediate Past President

NAWG Attends Monsanto Event on Monarch Butterflies
Yesterday, NAWG attended a meeting organized by Monsanto titled “Monarch Butterflies: Challenges and Opportunities.” The session included speakers highlighting public and private efforts to study and promote the development of monarch butterfly habitats. The discussion highlighted the coordinated efforts between government agencies, areas of focus and efforts to reestablish milkweed, so as to improve the habitat for Monarchs in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and in the Midwest Corn belt. Speaking at the session were representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Iowa State University, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Monarch Watch. Another collaborative meeting on the Monarch will be held in April and facilitated by the Keystone Policy Group.

NAWG Vice President Participates in Panel at BakingTech 2015
This week, NAWG vice president Gordon Stoner, a wheat farmer from Outlook, Mont., participated in a panel discussion at BakingTech 2015. He discussed biotechnology as part of the closing General Session. Stoner’s comments focused on the importance of biotechnology and the need for innovation to help feed our planet’s growing population. BakingTech 2015 addressed topics such as how to recruit and train the next generation of leaders, how to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner, how to meet ever-changing and difficult consumer demands and what technology is available to improve operational efficiently to ensure food safety. The American Society of Baking hosted the event. NAWG appreciates the opportunity to be part of these discussions. For a complete list of events at BakingTech 2015 click here.

Domestic and Trade Policy Committee at Commodity Classic
Last week at Commodity Classic the Domestic and Trade Policy Committee met to discuss a variety of wheat-related policies. During the meeting, the Canadian wheat growers’ group, Ag Canada, spoke to the Committee to discuss the importance of the U.S. and Canadian trade relationship, especially in agriculture. They showed a video explaining all the connections the U.S. and Canada possess in agriculture trade, which you can view here. The Committee heard updates on Idaho’s crop insurance project as well as current crop insurance strategy, to promote synergy with like-minded groups. Along with updates, the Committee focused on expiring resolutions, while passing many new resolutions and extending some of the expiring.

National Wheat Foundation Board of Directors at Commodity Classic
The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) conducted its annual meeting during the 2015 Commodity Classic in Phoenix, Ariz. Discussion centered around the Foundation’s progress in achieving the its core objectives and the proposed FY 2016 organizational budget. Progress reports were provided to the NWF Board on the current educational programs administered by the Foundation, including the Wheat Leaders of the Future (WOLF) Program, funded by Bayer CropScience, the Wheat Advocate Program, funded by Monsanto, the Jerry Minore Scholarships and the new National Wheat Yield Contest, funded by BASF, and the upcoming NWF-hosted National Ag Day Bagels & Briefing. The board also received an update on its Wheat Innovation Alliance. One of the actions the board took was to no longer actively seek funds to build a new Wheat Building in Washington, DC, and to seek permission from previous contributors to the building fund to utilize their funds on future projects of the board’s choice. The NWF Board welcomed two new board members:  David Cleavinger, a NAWG past president from Texas, and Ryan Findlay of Syngenta. The board also elected officers for 2015. Dusty Tallman, a wheat grower from Colorado, will serve as Chairman; Phil McLain, a North Carolina wheat grower, will serve as Vice Chairman; and, Steve Joehl of Monsanto will serve as Secretary/Treasurer.