WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2016 - The U.S. wheat industry is holding its fall conference in Denver this week to discuss policy priorities amid some of the lowest prices for their crop in a decade.

The meeting, which begins today, brings together officials and staff from the National Association of Wheat Growers, and their counterparts from U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry’s export development arm. The Joint NAWG/USW Board will also meet.

Chandler Goule, who took over as NAWG’s executive director in July, said the low wheat prices will “spur discussion” about the next farm bill and the need to maintain a strong safety net for producers, as well as a robust crop insurance program. He stressed that NAWG has been working very closely with USW in discussions about the 2018 farm bill.

“The objective is to come out of the meeting with a list of industry priorities for the farm bill, then refine them at our winter meeting in Washington,” Goule said. “It’s an exciting time, and we expect this to be a productive meeting.”

NAWG will also be unveiling a “wheat action plan” that will have two priorities – “increasing productivity and profitability.” Goule said he could not discuss specifics before the official rollout, but last year officials said a key objective would be to increase public and private research funding.

USW President Alan Tracy, meanwhile, says he’d like to see the farm bill include an increase in funding for two initiatives that help U.S. commodity groups promote their products overseas, and which specifically helps USW pay for its 15 offices in foreign countries. Tracy noted that Congress has not raised the annual allotment for the Foreign Market Development Program ($34.5 million) since 2002 and for the Market Access Program ($200 million) since 2006.

“We’re hoping there can be a developing consensus for a substantial increase in those programs,” Tracy said, pointing out that the buying power of those funds has been roughly cut in half by inflation and by the congressional sequester. “But obviously this is not something the wheat industry can do on its own,” Tracy said. “This effort requires all of agriculture.”

Tracy said the conference will also be spending time discussing the complaint the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative filed in September with the World Trade Organization, alleging unfair support of China’s wheat, corn and rice farmers. Tracy referred to an Iowa State University study, funded by USW, which showed China’s subsidies led to at least $650 million in lost revenue for U.S. wheat farmers in 2015.


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