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Farm Bill conservation programs, wild wheat genome sequencing, legislator spotlight and more in KAWG E-Update

Farm Bill conservation programs, wild wheat genome sequencing, legislator spotlight and more in KAWG E-Update

July 7, 2017


We hope you enjoy this week’s edition of KAWG E-News.


NAWG Pres. David Schemm: Farm Bill conservation programs are critical for wheat farmers (Op Ed in Topeka Capitol Journal)

Cropping systems, climate and soils vary for each wheat farmer across the country. Conservation programs must reflect these differences, and conservation options for growers must change just as the landscape across the country changes.


I made this same argument to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee who held a hearing on June 29, 2017 to examine the 2018 Farm Bill’s conservation programs. The Senate Agriculture Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Roberts, is in the process of reviewing USDA programs and will determine which programs will continue and what will be in the next Farm Bill. The Farm Bill’s Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Reserve Program are important to wheat growers and can improve their farm management practices. Wheat is grown in many states, both as a continuous cropping system or as part of a multi-year rotation. This requires us to maintain a diverse portfolio of conservation programs and practices that not only support the farmer, but also protect the land.


At the National Association of Wheat Growers, our members have prioritized working lands conservation programs in our discussions around the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization. The Conservation Stewardship Program helps producers adopt conservation practices across their operations, including converting to direct seeding/no-till farming, improving irrigation water management and utilizing advanced crop protection tools. Water irrigation is a prominent issue for farmers in western Kansas. As a participant in CSP, I have been able to integrate better irrigation practices into my operation, which allow for efficient irrigation water use and improved wildlife habitat. (Read more.)


Wild wheat genome sequencing provides ‘time tunnel’ capable of boosting future food production and safety

A global team of researchers has published the first-ever Wild Emmer wheat genome sequence in Science magazine. Wild Emmer wheat is the original form of nearly all the domesticated wheat in the world, including durum (pasta) and bread wheat. Wild emmer is too low-yielding to be of use to farmers today, but it contains many attractive characteristics that are being used by plant breeders to improve wheat.


“From a biological and historical viewpoint, we have created a ‘time tunnel’ we can use to examine wheat from before the origins of agriculture,” said Dr. Distelfeld, Tel Aviv University’s School of Plant Sciences and Food Security and Institute for Cereal Crops Improvement. “Our comparison to modern wheat has enabled us to identify the genes involved in domestication – the transition from wheat grown in the wild to modern day varieties. While the seeds of wild wheat readily fall off the plant and scatter, a change in two genes meant that in domesticated wheat, the seeds remained attached to the stalk; it is this trait that enabled humans to harvest wheat.”


“This new resource allowed us to identify a number of other genes controlling main traits that were selected by early humans during wheat domestication and that served as foundation for developing modern wheat cultivars,” said Dr. Eduard Akhunov of Kansas State University. “These genes provide an invaluable resource for empowering future breeding efforts. Wild Emmer is known as a source of novel variation that can help to improve the nutritional quality of grain as well as tolerance to diseases and water-limiting conditions.” (Read more.)


Agri-Pulse – Meet the Lawmaker: Rep. Kevin Yoder, Kansas’ 3rd District


In this video, Rep. Yoder chats with Agri-Pulse about his time on the Appropriations Committee and the role of rural Americans in Congress.


While Most Small Towns Languish, Some Flourish

By now, the demise of the American small town is a common tale. But even as most of them continue to lose residents, a few are adding them at a rapid clip.

In several Western and Southern states, small towns are growing quickly as fast-growing metro areas swallow up more outlying towns, according to a Statelineanalysis of census estimates. (Read more.)


Barbara Downey, Wamego, Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee on Conservation in the Farm Bill

At a hearing today of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Barbara Downey owner of Downey Ranch, Wamego, Kan. testified about conservation priorities in the Farm Bill at the invitation of  Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. The hearing was titled, “Conservation and Forestry: Perspectives on the Past and Future Direction for the 2018 Farm Bill.”


“I was pleased to have Mrs. Downey’s testimony and to listen to her support for voluntary conservation programs,” Roberts said. “She and her husband Joe have implemented many innovative conservation practices in their ranching operation and they are an excellent example of the great lengths our producers go to be good stewards of our natural resources.” ( Read more.)


House Ag swats back at Heritage Action on spending cuts

The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday dismissed allegations from Heritage Action that Chairman Mike Conaway’s objection to agriculture spending cuts is the obstacle holding up the hotly anticipated House budget deal, calling them “absurd.”

“With the farm economy in one of the biggest slides since the Great Depression, the chairman has been advocating for a budget that won’t exacerbate the conditions of our farmers and ranchers in rural America and that won’t impede development of the next farm bill,” said Rachel Millard, a spokeswoman for the committee. “That may not fit with Heritage Action’s long-running campaign against America’s farmers and ranchers, but it certainly isn’t the reason we still don’t have a budget.”

Conaway (R-Texas) has refused to make significant mandatory cuts to farm and nutrition programs as part of a budget agreement that aims to rein in federal spending and pave the way for tax reform.  (Read more.)


News from National Association of Wheat Growers


Ag Sector Sends Letter to Senate Urging a Speedy Confirmation of Doud; Next Steps with Trade

On June 30, 2017, the U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade, which represents the diverse food and agricultural sector, sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging them to promptly confirm Gregg Doud as Chief Agricultural Negotiator, with the rank of Ambassador, in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) is currently part of the U.S. Food and Agriculture for Trade.

In other trade news, on June 29, 2017, the USTR announced a request for public input for a performance review of all the United States’ existing international trade and investment agreements. In an April 29, 2017 executive order, President Trump directed USTR and the Department of Commerce to submit within 180 days a report that reviews trade agreement performance, identifies trade abuses, and pursues trade remedies. Additionally, on June 29th, President Donald Trump announced a possible renegotiation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. This announcement took places just a few days after several groups, including NAWG and USW, testified to the USTR on modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.

Lastly, a group of U.S. Senators recently sent a letter to the USTR highlighting the importance of agriculture in the NAFTA renegotiation. The letter can be found here.

Hearings in House and Senate Ag Committees

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry announced that it will hold a hearing next week on Thursday, July 13 at 10:00am.  The hearing will be focused on “Opportunities in Global and Local Markets, Specialty Crops, and Organics: Perspectives for the 2018 Farm Bill. No witnesses have been listed at this time.
Also on July 13th at 10:00am, the House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, will hold a hearing titled “The Future of Farming: Technological Innovations, Opportunities, and Challenges for Producers.” More information can be found here.


Proposed Farm Subsidy Cap Map

Kansas State has put together a map showing the number of insured acres on average that are needed to reach $40,000 proposed cap on subsides per farm. The maps allows you to see the impact for specific counties across the country.


Extreme Heat Broils the Dakotas and Montana; Flash Drought Takes Toll on Wheat Crop

A massive and intense heat dome has spread over the northern Plains and mountain West, sucking moisture out of the soil, and may persist for weeks. The scorching heat and absence of rain have spurred a rapidly intensifying drought that is decimating the region’s wheat crop.


Temperatures in Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas surged into the 90s and 100s on Wednesday, about 15 to 20 degrees above normal. Forecast models predict the same general weather pattern that supported this heat to persist up to two more weeks. Read coverage of the drought in The Washington Post.


Call to Action: Growers in these states and throughout the country should reach out to their Members of Congress and stress the importance of crop insurance. Crop Insurance is an essential safety net for farmers to help them recover from such unpredictable weather disasters as drought.


Securing Our Agriculture and Food Act Signed into Law

On Friday, June 30, 2017, a bill to address the threat of agro-terrorism was signed into law.  The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.  This new law will require the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, to lead a program to ensure the safety of the nation’s food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events.  Senator Roberts stated, “As the backbone of the U.S. economy, the spread of any deadly pathogen among our livestock and plant population would cause irreparable damage…. I am pleased we have taken this important step to better ensure the safety and security of our nation’s food supply.”  Find the text of the bill here.
NAWG Submits Comments to Registration Review Draft Risk Assessments of Pyrethroid Insecticides

On June 15, 2017, NAWG submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s solicitation of public comment on the registration review draft risk assessments for a number of pesticide chemicals, including several pyrethroid insecticides listed in Table 1 of Unit II. and the herbicide linuron listed in Table 2 of Unit II. In its comments, NAWG argued “beyond, the critical role pyrethroids play in pest management, they don’t cause adverse ecological effects when used under real-world conditions according to federally approved labels. The nature of pyrethroid chemistry makes these insecticides less of a hazard as compared to other pesticides.” Further, NAWG expressed concern that “the EPA screening-level preliminary ecological risk assessment for pyrethroid insecticides is overly conservative and does not consider the best available science. NAWG encourages the EPA to review the multiple high-quality studies and peer reviewed scientific publications provided by the Pyrethroid Working Group.” Read NAWG’s comments here.
Agri-Pulse: Meet the Farm Hands: Chandler Goule, National Association of Wheat Growers

On one of his first days in Washington, Chandler Goule hung up on the President of the United States. Twice. Now, he’s in charge of an organization tasked with advocating for America’s wheat producers. Hear his thoughts on his journey through Washington in this video.


It feels like the rally in the wheat market topped out on Wednesday.  A retracement occurred to end the week.  Friday’s closing price in the September Kansas City wheat was 24 cents off the high.  Long liquidation by short term bullish traders increased on Thursday and Friday.

The price action in the Kansas City wheat futures respected the Minneapolis wheat price action.  Spring wheat production suffered because of weather.  It remains hot and dry in the Dakotas and Montana. (Check out the Drought Monitor Map on the internet to give a visual) Reports indicate a short wheat plant and smaller heads than normal.  The weather forecasts for the Northern Plains calls for more of the same.

Next week, on Wednesday, the USDA will release their evaluation of the spring wheat situation.  The monthly grain reports will show updated information for both the United States and the World.  The World Report will show wheat ending stocks at record levels.  The U. S. Report should show a decrease in our ending stocks.  The estimated decrease for the spring wheat loss averages 100 million bushels as reported by analysts.

This loss of spring wheat is important to the food industry in the United States.  Usually, spring wheat has a higher protein level than hard red and soft red winter wheat.  Besides the food industry, a few countries count on the United States for good quality wheat to fill their milling needs.  While the loss in bushels is small compared to the total bushels raised, the loss in quality is a problem for some.

Wheat producers should reward themselves on this gain in the wheat price.  How often have you seen this strong of a rally in the wheat price during this time of the year?



Source: Kansas Association of Wheat Growers