KAWG members approve policy
By Jennifer M. Latzke
The Kansas Association of Wheat Growers gathered Aug. 8 in Wichita, Kan., to discuss new and updated policy resolutions.
Among the approved policy positions was a one-sentence statement under Domestic Policy regarding the farm bill: “The KAWG opposes separating the Nutrition and Farm Program components of the farm bill into separate pieces of legislation.”
Dalton Henry, KAWG membership and government affairs specialist, said keeping the farm bill together helps farmers in an era of increasing urbanization.
“As Congress gets more and more urban, we find it’s more important to build coalitions to pass legislation,” Henry said. “That’s the crux of it. There are 435 members of Congress and 34 live in a Congressional district that is 50 percent or more rural. Keeping the farm bill comprehensive ensures our ability to pass legislation in the future—or makes it hopefully easier to pass.”
Henry said KAWG teamed up with other Kansas grain commodity groups to write a letter last month to the Kansas delegation, laying out reasons to keep the farm bill together.
“We understand where our representatives are coming from, those who voted for a split bill,” Henry said. “We recognize that that vote isn’t the final say. Rather it was just a means to conference. Hopefully we’ll be able to put the bill back together in conference and pass a comprehensive bill at the end of the day.”
KAWG members also approved a resolution opposing the repeal of permanent law provision in any future farm bill.
Under the Research Policy section, KAWG members passed a new resolution supporting “Farmer Assurance Provisions” becoming law and mitigating any adverse court decisions in the future commercialization of genetically modified traits.
On the state side, KAWG members reaffirmed their support of state commodity commissions, and reiterated that they should remain governed by farmer-elected commissioners.
Kansas Wheat Chief Executive Officer Justin Gilpin spoke later during the Bayer Profit Maximizer Summit about the progress Kansas Wheat has had over the past year.
“Increased investment into wheat continues,” he said. Investment from private companies into new wheat varieties has enhanced genetics available for farmers these past few years.
The status of Kansas continues to rise as the leader in wheat innovation and research, and not just domestically but around the world.
“The Kansas Wheat Innovation Center was just opened, with leadership from our growers,” Gilpin said. “Its main goal is to deliver new genetics faster to farmers. We know that a wheat variety takes 10 to 12 years for development, but the research done here gets them in the hands of farmers faster. And, we’ll be able to leverage both public and private research.”
Gilpin added that this farmer-owned building was the single largest investment in wheat made by the Kansas Wheat Commission at $10.3 million. When Kansas Wheat polled farmers about their goals for the Kansas wheat industry, 76 percent said they wanted more investment into research. The Wheat Innovation Center offers 15,000 square feet of lab spaces and cutting edge greenhouse space for year-round work.
All of this is in preparation for the future where world wheat consumption is on track to outpace current production, Gilpin said.
“In 2012-13, production of wheat was at 655 million metric tonnes, but consumption was at 680 mmt,” Gilpin said. “And 2013-14 it’s estimated to rise to 698 mmt of consumption. The global stocks to use ratio is still above the watched 20 percent, but if the world ever got into the 20 percent usage range that’s a scary time. Right now we are at about a 25 percent stocks to use ratio.”
On the global market side, the focus is on China and Argentina.
“China stepped up and bought nearly 3 million mmt to-date of U.S. wheat,” Gilpin said. China’s soft red winter wheat crop may be lower by 10 to 15 mmt year on year. That’s equivalent to one Kansas wheat crop in a year, he added.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.