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Subsidies, biotech & coal issues at convention

Subsidies, biotech & coal issues on Tri-State Grain Growers Convention agenda

With the goal of educating farmers about the issues that will affect their operations in the years ahead, the Tri-State Grain Grower Convention has invited a slew of controversial speakers to their annual convention at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

On Tuesday, November 13, at 8 a.m., outspoken farm subsidy critic Ken Cook will address hundreds of farmers from Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Cook is the president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group and is widely recognized as one of the environmental community’s most prominent and effective critics of establishment agriculture and U.S. farm policy.

“Genesee” Joseph Anderson, president of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, said Cook’s invitation to speak at the convention has not set well with a few members.

“I’ve had farmers tell me they were surprised that we invited him, but I believe it is important to hear from those who criticize us, not just those who praise us,” he said.  

Also on Tuesday, farmers will also have an opportunity to ask questions about the impacts of increased coal shipments through the Pacific Northwest. A panel consisting of representatives and analysts of the Washington State Department of Transportation, BNSF Railway, coal interests and shippers will discuss the topic during breakout sessions Tuesday morning and afternoon.

A panel of experts will speak on biotechnology and GM labeling on Wednesday morning. Ken Cook, Dr. Don Huber, Dr. Anastasia Bodnar and Dr. Michael Neff will discuss the topic and represent their differing points of view.

Huber is a long-standing critic of biotech crops, such as Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" which genetically alters plants to withstand treatments of Roundup herbicide. A plant pathologist and retired Purdue University professor, Huber’s letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2011? about a pathogen associated with the Roundup Ready technology, generated a great deal of media attention.

Bodnar is an executive editor for and has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University.  Her doctoral research included improving nutritional quality of maize through genetic engineering and selective breeding, as well as investigating unintended effects of genetic engineering. She has published a critical analysis of Huber's letter to the USDA and his research.

Neff is the director of the Molecular Plant Science Graduate Program and is an associate professor of crop biotechnology at Washington State University. Dr. Neff was a National Institute of Health postdoctoral fellow studying plant molecular genetics.

Events from the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention will be live Tweeted using the hashtag #PNWgrain, and you can follow the events through the organizations’ Facebook pages as well.

For more information on attending the convention, contact the WAWG office at 509-659-0610.