NAWG Weekly Update: October 9, 2014

FSA Announces Key Dates for New 2014 Farm Bill Safety Net Programs
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced key dates for producers regarding the 2014 Farm Bill established programs, Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). Important dates to remember include: September 29, 2014 – February 27, 2015: Landowners may visit their local FSA office to update yield history and/or reallocate base acres. November 17, 2014 – March 31, 2015: Producers make a one-time election of either ARC or PLC for the 2014 – 2018 crop years. Mid-April 2015 through summer 2015: Producers sign contracts for 2014 and 2015 crop years. October 2015: Payments for 2014 crop year, if needed. Crop losses for 2015 will be paid out in October 2016. Winter wheat growers will have until their state acreage reporting date of November or December 15 to opt-out of SCO but do not actually have to sign up for ARC/PLC by those dates. Growers that miss the deadline of November 15 or December 15 are not prohibited from choosing SCO but will be required to pay a portion of the premium and unable to collect the indemnity, if one is owed. Visit USDA’s website for more information.

Administration Extends Comment Period on Waters of the U.S. Rule
The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have extended the public comment period for their proposed regulation redefining waters of the U.S., identifying which waters would be subject to jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The comment period will now close on November 14. NAWG is developing comments outlining concerns with the proposed regulation and will discuss the regulation during the Environment and Renewable Resources Committee meeting during the NAWG Board meeting later this month. Additional information can be found here.

Ag Groups Ask DOT To Reconsider Rail Tank Car Rules
NAWG, along with 29 other state and national agribusinesses and producer organizations, sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) last week urging them to reconsider their rules on tank car requirements for hauling ethanol and oil on rail. In addition, the letter opposed new speed limitations on rail that the groups argued would “have the unintended consequence of further exacerbating already degraded rail service to agriculture and other rail users, threatening to increase rail congestion.” With an already congested rail system and winter approaching along with big harvest seasons, NAWG and other rail shippers urge the DOT not to make any other rules that could possibly slow down rail traffic further. For more on NAWG’s rail policy along with the letter in full click here.

Sec. Vilsack Reaffirms Support for Biotech Innovation
While speaking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressed his desire to see the use of biotechnology expanded in the global agricultural industry: “It’s in our long-term best interest, as a global community, that we encourage appropriate science, that we encourage biotechnology, that we encourage ways in which we can grow crops, more crops with less water, more crops with less pesticides, more crops with less chemicals. And in order to do that we have to embrace science. We cannot be afraid of it.” Secretary Vilsack discussed the strain that a growing global population would place on the world’s current agricultural industry, which he believes will create an unending cycle of poverty and strife in areas of chronic food shortage. The potential problems caused by climate change were also touched upon, and the Secretary believes that more frequent bouts of bad weather will only exacerbate existing food supply problems.

Send In The Drones
Agriculture officials in Louisiana this week petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow for the use of drones in a commercial capacity. The FAA currently has a ban on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for anything but hobby purposes.  Farmers across the country are currently seeking a change to the FAA’s current regulations on drones, citing the enormous potential that drones have in the agricultural industry. Farmers argue that drones can save time and resources by allowing them to check water flow in fields remotely and more quickly. The FAA currently distinguishes between UAVs used for business reasons and UAVs used for recreational purposes, the latter of which is allowed. Farmers and some officials argue that, if the FAA’s concern is one of safety, both hobbyists and farmers have the same economic incentive to keep their UAVs from crashing and injuring people. The recent action by Louisiana officials was prompted by the FAA’s announcement this week that waivers would be granted to several film companies to allow for the use of UAV cameras.

World Food Prize Presented Next Week
The World Food Prize for 2014 will be presented to Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, on Thursday, October 16, for his scientific research that led to a prodigious increase in world wheat production – by more than 200 million tons – building upon the successes of the Green Revolution. His breakthrough breeding technologies have had a far-reaching and significant impact in providing more nutritious food around the globe and alleviating world hunger. He is the former colleague of the Prize’s founder Dr. Norman Borlaug, and worked closely with Dr. Borlaug throughout his career in genetics and agricultural science. As a winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Borlaug understood the value that a sustainable and flexible food supply played in ensuring peace for an increasingly populous world. Thanks to the work of Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues, wheat now accounts for 20 percent of the world’s caloric intake. To honor future agricultural visionaries and heroes, Dr. Borlaug created the World Food Prize, recognition that the work of feeding the whole world is never done. Details and history of the award and the 2014 Laureate can be found here.