Last month in Washington, D.C., leaders and staff of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) met with members of the state’s federal delegation during a National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) farm bill fly-in.
“D.C. is currently bustling with farm bill talks. We were able to meet with most of our state’s federal delegation and have meaningful conversations about our priorities for the bill,” said Michelle Hennings, WAWG’s executive director. “We’ve heard that there will likely be some type of extension, and Congress’s goal is to have a farm bill by the end of the year at the latest. There is quite a bit of work to be done, however, and budgets are tight.”
One thing wheat growers heard repeatedly was that House legislators want to make improvements to the bill, especially to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). There are some discussions around making CRP a more regional program, with legislators realizing that a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for large parts of the country. Hennings said productivity of land in CRP was also a talking point, with Washington growers pointing out that only about 10% of Washington’s prime farmland is enrolled in CRP, a number far lower than many Midwest states.
Other topics wheat growers discussed were how to make crop insurance more affordable, increased funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, and the potential for a government shutdown at the end of September.
WAWG’s farm bill priorities include:
- Protecting and enhancing crop insurance so it continues to provide a strong safety net for producers. According to the Risk Management Agency, nearly 37 million acres or 76% of the country’s total wheat acres were covered by a form of crop insurance in 2022.
- Supporting financial and technical assistance through voluntary conservation cost-share programs for producers. In addition, the farm bill should not expand conservation compliance to add additional requirements on farmers.
- Encouraging additional investment in agricultural trade promotions and U.S. commodities as part of the farm bill’s trade title. MAP and FMD programs have increased farm export revenue by $9.6 billion annually from 1977 to 2019.
- Supporting wheat research programs authorized under the farm bill and robust funding as part of the annual appropriations process.
Beside Washington state’s team, wheat growers from 13 other states also met with their federal delegations, staff from the four corners of the House and Senate agriculture committees, and leadership offices.
“I want to thank all of the members of Congress, their staff, and wheat growers who took the time to meet in D.C. and talk about the farm bill,” said NAWG president and Oregon wheat farmer, Brent Cheyne. “It is so important for wheat growers to tell their story and share their needs and concerns with lawmakers to help formulate policies and programs that benefit wheat growers and the ag industry.”
Besides the legislators (and their staff) pictured, Washington growers also met with the offices of Reps. Derek Kilmer, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, and Suzan DelBene.