A capitol effort Washington wheat growers take part in national conference, advocate on the Hill

By Trista Crossley


Staff and leaders of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) closed out January by traveling to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal legislators and take part in the National Association of Wheat Growers’ (NAWG) winter conference.

“With so many critical issues being talked about in Congress, such as the farm bill and the lower Snake River dams, it was important that Washington wheat growers met with members of our federal delegation and discussed our concerns,” said Michelle Hennings, WAWG’s executive director. “We also took part in NAWG committee meetings to help direct the efforts of the national association. It was a successful trip, and we are looking forward to continuing to work with Congress.”

In addition to staff from congressional offices, WAWG also met with representatives from several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency. They also met with Trevor White of the House Agriculture Committee. Besides farm bill and the dams, the group discussed funding for promotional trade programs, crop insurance, and conservation programs.

During the NAWG conference, Hennings gave an update to the Domestic Trade and Policy Committee on the lower Snake River dams and the commitment agreement. She emphasized the importance of having a national coalition supporting the dams. WAWG leaders sit on several NAWG committees, including Nicole Berg from Benton County who chairs the Planning and Operations Committee, Anthony Smith from Benton County who sits on the Environment and Research Committee, Marci Green from Spokane County who sits on the Budgeting Committee, and Andy Juris from Klickitat County who chairs the Domestic Trade and Policy Committee.  

The conference, which included joint meetings with U.S. Wheat Associates, featured several special sessions. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.) discussed progress on the farm bill, saying there is still a lot of work to do. USDA undersecretary of agriculture for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, Alexis Taylor, and Doug McKalip, chief agricultural negotiator from the Office of United States Trade Representative, gave trade updates.

WAWG’s national priorities include:

  • Preserving food security by modernizing future farm bills and continuing to offer agriculture and nutrition support programs. WAWG supports a do-no-harm approach to farm bill reauthorization, which includes maintaining the current structure of the crop insurance program and current cost-share levels. WAWG supports making necessary adjustments to Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) programs so they can function effectively. The price and yield functions of ARC formulas should be adjusted so it can be a viable option for producers. The current $5.50 PLC reference price is not an adequate safety net for wheat production. WAWG supports prioritizing working lands conservation programs in the conservation title. Voluntary programs have functioned well and provided an important incentive to producers to undertake practices that are good for the environment and good for their operations.
  • Protecting our markets by continued and increased federal funding through the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. WAWG supports purchasing U.S. wheat for U.S. food aid programs, rather than purchasing wheat from competitors. WAWG supports full implementation and enforcement of existing trade agreements to allow fair trade to occur within the export marketplace. WAWG strongly supports the enforcement of sanitary and phytosanitary agreements with its trade partners.
  • Protecting our environment through climate or sustainability legislation that is voluntary, incentive-based, and recognizes the unique and varied landscapes and climates of wheat production. The wheat industry should be fully involved in discussions of any policy or legislation relating to climate change, and sound science demonstrating agriculture’s environmental benefits should be considered.
  • Promoting and protecting our infrastructure by keeping the lower Snake River dams intact as they are vital to Washington and the nation’s economy and transportation infrastructure. WAWG also supports funding for maintaining the Columbia River System. WAWG supports the findings in the Federal EIS and opposes any state, legislative, or administrative effort to remove or disrupt the Snake River dam system. WAWG supports funding to maintain and improve Washington road, river, and rail systems. WAWG supports action regarding the Columbia River Treaty, which protects viability of U.S. navigation, hydropower, irrigation, and flood control.
  • Protecting food systems with safe and innovative pesticides. WAWG opposes cancelling crop protection product labels or uses unless equivalent replacement products are available. WAWG supports the professional use of pesticides and best management practices for their use and opposes legislation that would restrict or limit the use of pesticides through bans or by setting residue tolerance levels that are not based on science.
  • WAWG supports incremental funding increases for USDA that cover mandatory pay costs and the rising costs at Agricultural Research Service facilities.