NAWG Weekly Update: May 14, 2015

Industry Partners Support National Wheat Yield Contest
Launching this fall with the planting of the 2015-2016 winter wheat crop, the National Wheat Foundation’s (NWF) National Wheat Yield Contest (NWYC) will provide an opportunity for U.S. wheat growers to compete against their peers to help build a reliable and consistent supply of high quality wheat for customers at home and abroad. Three additional industry partners have joined with original NWYC partner BASF (crop protection) and NWF to design, implement and promote this important national project. John Deere (equipment), Monsanto (seed) and WinField (agronomic services) are providing funding and expertise to help make the contest successful.

The NWYC will consist of two separate competitions:  winter wheat and spring wheat. Each segment will also be divided into irrigated and dryland divisions. National winners will be determined based on the percentage increase above their latest published USDA-NASS average county yield. NWYC rules and procedures will be published later this summer. Stay tuned for more details as they develop.

Senate Votes to Consider Trade Promotion Authority
Today the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the vehicle for the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation approved by the Senate Finance Committee that will cut off debate on the question of whether to move to the bill. As such, the Senate is now officially considering the bill, which is open to amendment.

The vote came after a failed Senate vote of 52-45 (60 vote threshold) on Tuesday, resulting from a disagreement among the Republicans and Democrats about the process for moving forward. Following the Senate vote, majority and minority leadership negotiated a path forward whereby the Senate would vote on passage of legislation concerning trade with Africa and a customs bill, followed by the vote on cloture of the motion to proceed to the TPA bill.

The TPA legislation outlines U.S. trade policy objectives and sets out conditions for the President to negotiate free trade agreements and other trade liberalizing initiatives as well as allowing for expedited Congressional consideration. TPA builds confidence with our negotiating partners that once an agreement is reached, Congress cannot change it, and is viewed as necessary for completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The bill also institutionalizes consultation requirements to ensure that Congress and the President maintain a strong partnership in advancing trade policy goals. NAWG supports this legislation. 

NAWG Hires Joehl as Director of Research and Technology
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) is pleased to welcome Steve Joehl to the wheat growers’ team as director of research and technology. Joehl will be responsible for coordinating programs to enhance and expedite the commercialization of wheat innovations through public and private research programs. Joehl joins the wheat growers after nearly 40 years with Monsanto, working in various roles and capacities since beginning his career in 1975 in sales and sales management. For the past five years, Joehl has been actively involved in wheat issues as Monsanto’s liaison to wheat growers, including serving as Secretary/Treasurer of the National Wheat Foundation and as executive director of Monsanto’s wheat advisory council. “As the wheat industry shifts focus to increasing overall productivity and profitability, I strongly believe Steve’s role is key to wheat production’s turnaround in the U.S.,” commented NAWG CEO Jim Palmer. “I am excited about what Steve will help us do, and I know we will benefit from his extensive experience in this field.” Welcome to the team, Steve!

House Subcommittee Gears up for STB Reauthorization
On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and hazardous Material met to discuss the Staggers Rail Act. Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) was quick to note that much of the agricultural industry, as we know it today, would not be possible if the American freight rail industry had been allowed to fail. The witnesses all spoke favorably of the Staggers Rail Act and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and encouraged the Subcommittee to retain the practices that the Act introduced.  Testimony from all witnesses is available at this link. This hearing also laid the groundwork for the reauthorization of the STB, as the current authorization expires September 30, 2015.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved reauthorization legislation (S. 808) last March. The bill included several reforms to the STB, including increasing the number of board members from three to five; adding transparency requirements to ensure reporting of the nature and disposition of complaints considered by the STB; establishing a voluntary arbitration process to resolve disputes; and giving the STB the ability to initiate investigations without having to wait for a formal complaint to be filed.  NAWG continues to follow these issues closely, and will engage the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as it considers reauthorization.

House approves WOTUS legislation
On Tuesday night the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1732 by a vote of 261-155. This important legislation requires the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed waters of the U.S. regulation and to rewrite the regulation with more input from states and those impacted by the regulation. The proposed regulation is currently pending at the Office of Management and Budget and could be finalized at any time. Last month, the White House issued a veto threat on the legislation. NAWG supports H.R. 1732.

Jordan Receives U.S. Wheat
Early this week USDA Secretary Vilsack signed an agreement with the Jordan Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhoury, that 100,000 tons of wheat will be donated to Jordan to help feed the 600,000 Syrian refugees. The wheat, valued at about $25 million, will also help strengthen Jordan’s agriculture sector. This is the third and largest wheat donation to help these refugees, who are fleeing their homeland due to war. On the donation Secretary Vilsack said, “I think it’s an important message that we’re sending of America’s willingness to help in the face of a humanitarian crisis that Jordan is now confronting.”

The Word On Wheat: Understanding Celiac Disease versus the Gluten-Free Craze
In recognition of Celiac Awareness Month (May), the Foundation explored the challenges those living with celiac disease face when “gluten-free” is seen as a fad lifestyle and not a necessity. It is important to spread awareness of celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that affects about 1 percent of the population, and emphasize that gluten is not unhealthy. Take a moment this May to learn more about celiac disease and help to spread positive information about gluten. More resources and information are available at The Word On Wheat blog.

The blog post can be read here.