Farm bill, trade agreements discussed at fall conference

Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ president, Ben Adams (fourth from right) and vice president, Marci Green (third from right), were part of the group that traveled to Charleston, S.C., to participate in the National Association of Wheat Growers’ Fall Conference.

Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ president, Ben Adams (fourth from right) and vice president, Marci Green (third from right), were part of the group that traveled to Charleston, S.C., to participate in the National Association of Wheat Growers’ Fall Conference.

Leaders and staff of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) recently took part in the wheat industry’s fall conference in Charleston, S.C.

Ben Adams, president of WAWG, said the conference, hosted by the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), is a forum where WAWG can contribute to the national conversation around the wheat industry’s issues.

“Having our two national wheat industry organizations working together makes the industry stronger and more effective, especially on trade and farm policy,” Adams said.

All members of the WAWG leadership team participate on the NAWG committees. Here’s a roundup of what each committee discussed.

The Domestic and Trade Policy Committee discussed a number of topics in preparation for development of the 2018 Farm Bill, including economic conditions in wheat country and how this is driving discussions around the farm bill. NAWG staff also provided the committee with an overview of the bill’s status on Capitol Hill and NAWG’s priorities around the legislation. The group focused its conversation and debate on crop insurance, Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, base acres and market development funding. The committee also heard an update on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) and the World Trade Organization’s case against China.

The Environment and Renewable Resources Committee discussed conservation and the next farm bill, regulatory reform and other policy issues. Committee members also heard from guest speakers Kim Magin of Monsanto; Jim McCarthy of the North American Millers Association; and Rob MacKie of the American Bakers Association. The committee also discussed the current status of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) reorganization process. Lastly, National Wheat Foundation Chair Phil McClain provided an update to the committee on the Foundation’s recent activities.

The Research and Technology Committee listened to a presentation by Jose Costa, national program leader at USDA’s Grain Crops, on budgetary issues affecting wheat research. Josh Tonsager, NAWG’s vice president of policy and communications, provided the group with an update on the farm bill research title. The group also discussed the language around “quality” for the research title. Lastly, the committee had a briefing on the glyphosate residue issue and California’s Proposition 65.

NAWG, along with USW, held a Joint Committee meeting where USW’s Ben Conner provided an update on the administration’s work to renegotiate NAFTA and its consideration to withdraw or renegotiate KORUS. The group also discussed ways to push the administration towards creating new free trade agreements. Julia Doherty, deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative, talked about the current trade concerns around maximum residue levels. Molly O’Connor, NAWG’s government relations advisor, provided the group with an update on the administration’s work to expand its trade program with Cuba. She also discussed NAWG’s current engagement with Congress and the administration on several trade issues including NAFTA, KORUS and market development.

The Joint Biotech Committee heard a few company updates from Syngenta. NAWG’s O’Connor discussed how USDA plans on issuing its proposed federal GMO labeling rule in the fall of 2017 (which will be subject to public comment). O’Connor also provided an update to APHIS 340.

“With the farm bill around the corner, it is even more important to have all the states come together at these national meetings,” said Michelle Hennings, executive director of WAWG. “It’s vital the industry as a whole is on the same page.”