NAWG Weekly Update: November 19, 2015

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday next week, the next NAWG Weekly Update will be sent on December 3. Happy Thanksgiving!

Highway Bill May Get Another Short Term Extension
Conferees from the House and Senate have begun formal negotiations of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill. Both chambers have passed their own versions, and a conference committee has been established to work out the differences between the two. The current short-term extension expires on Friday. In addition to policy differences, the two overarching questions facing negotiators are funding mechanisms and authorization length. Both chambers’ bills would authorize the program for six years; some Members of the conference committee have called for shortening the timeframe in order to help address funding challenges.

With these and other questions still unresolved, the House of Representatives passed another short-term extension of the current authorization extending to December 4 in order to provide additional time for negotiations. NAWG is hopeful the Senate will also pass a short-term extension tonight.

NAWG Submits Comments to OSTP
Earlier this summer the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a memo to three government agencies— the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—requesting that each agency review and update the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology originally released in 1986 and updated in 1992. The purpose of the Framework is “to develop a long-term strategy to ensure that the system is prepared for the future products of biotechnology” and to build consumer confidence in the technology and regulatory system.

This fall the White House opened a public comment period and also held their first public meeting on the Framework, inviting members of the public to present oral testimony. NAWG, with industry partners and other commodity groups, submitted comments hoping that “this review process will facilitate continued development and commercialization of safe, beneficial and improved varieties of all crops so that more producers can realize the benefits biotechnology provides.” The comments express concern with the expanded regulatory requirements by some agencies.

The comments support three goals that government policy should follow in new breeding techniques: government policies should be science and risk-based, predictable, and promote innovation and advancements in breeding; governments should not differentially regulate products developed through precision breeding tools that are similar to or indistinguishable from products resulting from more traditional breeding tools, since such similar products are not likely to pose different risks; and governments should avoid creating new trade barriers or disruptions due to non-harmonious policies and practices. Click here to read the full comments.

Alliance Weighs in on the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade
NAWG joined the U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance (USBCA) letter to Secretaries Vilsack, USDA; Pritzker, Department of Commerce and Ambassador Froman, U.S. Trade Representative on the upcoming U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JTTC). As the U.S. prepares for the JTTC and continues to discuss biotechnology with China, the USBCA is looking for follow-up on the short-term commitments made by China to advance the full queue of products, after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent U.S. visit. The letter stresses the need for action to be taken by the People’s Republic of China on biotech approval, timely application feedback and issuing decisions during the application timeline. This letter comes shortly after the inaugural U.S.-China Strategic Agricultural Innovation Dialogue held in Washington, D.C. earlier this fall.

Wheat Leaders Participate in 19th Annual WILOT Program
The National Wheat Foundation’s (NWF) Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow (WILOT) Program, funded by a generous grant from Monsanto, concluded its 19th class this week in St. Louis, Mo. This intensive six-day program provides practical training for new and emerging wheat farmer leaders in the areas of agriculture policy, advocacy, wheat organization integration, social and traditional media training, working with diverse personalities, building consumer trust, and the direction of current and future wheat research. This year’s participants represented the wheat-growing states of North Carolina, Oregon, North Dakota, Oregon, Missouri, South Dakota and Montana.

National Wheat Foundation Accepting Scholarship Applications
NWF, through support from BASF, will again award four students the Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship honors both high school and college students who have demonstrated success in academics and leadership roles. All applications must be sent on or before December 11, 2015 to Scholarships will be awarded at the 2016 Commodity Classic in New Orleans, La. The application can be found here.