NAWG Weekly Update: October 20, 2016

NAWG President Participates in Farm Bill Panel

This week, NAWG President Gordon Stoner attended a Farm Bill Discussion Forum hosted by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont), where he participated in a panel discussing what is needed in the 2018 Farm Bill to assist producers through this period of low prices and surplus commodities. Stoner said the consensus at the panel was that protecting crop insurance is a top priority, as well as addressing concerns of widely varied yields in adjacent counties for ARC-County payments. There is concern among farmers that using National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data for computing ARC-county payments often results in widely differing payments between adjacent counties. Stoner said that in Montana, the belief is that crop insurance data would be a more accurate indicator than NASS data. In addition, the panel discussed the threat of reductions in cost-share conservation programs, acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Producers have made great strides in improved conservation and this program has been valuable in achieving those goals. NAWG commends and thanks Senator Tester for leading the discussion about future Farm Bill priorities and we look forward to working with him as the next Farm Bill develops.

 EPA Action on Sulfoxaflor

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-registered the insecticide sulfoxaflor for use on wheat, barley, canola, beans, and a variety of other grains and vegetables. EPA vacated the previous registrations in November 2015, due to a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the EPA did not have sufficient evidence to prove the chemical didn’t pose risks to bees.  EPA has now taken action to unconditionally register sulfoxaflor for crops that do not bloom and are not attractive to pollinators. For crops that attract bees, application is restricted to post-bloom and is not allowed on crops grown for seed. EPA stated that after reviewing data and an amended application by Dow AgroSciences, they determined that sulfoxaflor is safe for use, as required under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). NAWG welcomes this reregistration of the chemical for its use on wheat.

Obama Administration Loosens Regulations on Cuba Exports of Agricultural Products

Last Friday, the Obama administration announced the next steps in further loosening the U.S. sanctions against Cuba, continuing the process of normalization that the Administration hopes to make permanent before leaving office. To the excitement of many, Americans have been authorized to bring back rum and cigars from Cuba, for personal use. However, for agriculture, the excitement is in an expansion of exports for goods such as farm equipment and pesticides. These new amendments allow exporters to avoid cash-in-advance requirements for transactions involving agricultural commodities that have caused significant barriers. The loosening of restrictions in trade with Cuba provides an opportunity for American wheat growers to take advantage of the available Caribbean market, in the face of declining prices and market surplus. With foreign competitors taking advantage of the Cuban wheat import market, American growers welcome this announcement that will help decrease financial barriers and regulations that have restricted US wheat access for decades. NAWG President Gordon Stoner said that “one of the solutions to boosting the sagging farm economy is increased trade”. NAWG supports efforts to liberalize trade with Cuba by loosening regulations on products exported out of the country and encourages Congress and the Obama Administration to continue on the path towards ending the embargo.

2015 Crop Year Farm Program Payment Details Posted by FSA

As was noted in last week’s NAWG e-newsletter, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has begun issuing Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) County program and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program payments for the 2015 crop year.  Maps have been posted online showing the ranges of payments by county for wheat, corn, and soybeans.  On Wednesday last week, FSA posted a document showing the aggregate dollar amounts of payments by program, commodity, and state.  Additionally, FSA also posted a spreadsheet showing by county and commodity the benchmark yield and benchmark revenue as well as the final price and final actual yield used to determine payment rates.  If producers have questions about the data that’s used or the final payment rates, please contact the NAWG office and we would be happy to assist you with seeking information from USDA.  Particularly as farmers are struggling with low prices, the Farm Bill safety net programs are more important now than ever.

Agriculture Marketing Service Moves Forward on Bioengineering Disclosure Standard

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) posted a solicitation for proposals to conduct a Study on the Electronic or Digital Link Disclosure. The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure standard requires the study to identify any technology challenges that may influence consumer access to information regarding bioengineered ingredients on food packages. Following the passage of the GMO labeling bill into law this summer, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard was enacted; the AMS has two years of rule-making to implement a food disclosure standard, and must complete this study one year from the date of passage, or July 2017. The options for on-package disclosure range from telephone numbers to a symbol developed by the AMS, or electronic disclosure such as a QR code. The efficacy of these options in providing comprehensive information to consumers was a controversial point throughout the bill’s passage, and the study to be conducted also led to controversy when AMS announced they planned to conduct two studies: one to evaluate the consumer access to digital labeling as outlined in the bill, and an another to evaluate the actual use of electronic labels. After reviewing the comments provided on the proposed studies, AMS ultimately decided to only conduct the one study requested in the bill. NAWG commends AMS on their efforts to follow through with the requirements of the Bill and bring scientific-based information to consumers.