Friday, August 6, 2010

Mississippi River Water Resource News for the Week

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and Farm Conservation Funding 
 The Senate Agriculture Committee on March 24, passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S 3307), a bill introduced by Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) that would reauthorize child-nutrition programs, and that included a $4.5 billion increase in funding over 10 years for school, after-school and summer meal programs and for improvement in the nutritional quality of the meals.  The increases in funding were to have been offset by, among other cuts, a $2.2 billion decrease in the authorization levels for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP); a USDA conservation program used by farmers and ranchers to address environmental problems on their land.   
However, after some farm-state senators objected to using the EQIP subsidy money as an offset to pay for the nutrition program, by the time of the August 5, full Senate vote on the childhood nutrition bill, a deal had been struck to change the way it was paid for.  That compromise took $2.2 billion out of future funding for food stamp programs instead of EQIP.  The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent. Hunger advocates who had previously supported the bill said they would now oppose it.  House action on the measure will likely wait until after the August recess.  The House of Representatives would need to pass its version of the bill in time for President Obama to sign the legislation before September 30, or the programs risk losing the newly found funding stream.

The Senate Appropriations Committee rushed to approve nine of its 12 spending bills over the past few weeks. The Senate has yet to clear the Interior-EPA bill, or the Defense and Legislative Branch proposals.  The full House approved its transportation and veterans spending bills in floor votes in the last week in July, but the other 10 spending bills still await a full committee markup.  See a Library of Congress summary table here.
Current spending measures expire at the end of September, Congress is all but certain to pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund federal programs for the start of the 2011 Fiscal Year when it returns from August recess, which would extend funding at current Fiscal Year 2010 levels.  Whether Congress will enact new Fiscal Year 2011 spending bills following the November election depends greatly on the outcome of the elections.  On average, most of the spending bills passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee to date or cleared out of the House and Senate subcommittees keep FY 2011 spending at about the same levels as in FY 2010 for science and environmental programs, with slight adjustments up or down in some programs.  However, if Congress goes through with additional cuts that some Senators and House members said they wish to pursue, then appropriators will need to find an additional $6 billion in cuts (possibly more, depending on which Member of Senator you listen to on the issue).  Those proposed additional spending cuts seem to have bipartisan support, at least in the Senate.

Illusion and Reality
It's been a slow week in DC, what with the House half of Congress on recess.  So, I'm going to take the liberty to muse a bit today.  I took an English course in college called "Illusion and Reality" where we read several great books the central themes of which centered on the topic of what is real and what is illusion in people's lives (The Glass Menagerie is one that I recall was in the reading list). Click here to see a modern day example of illusion and reality. And if you liked that one, click here to watch the white dove change colors.
I present these optical illusions because I have a hard time sometimes figuring out what is illusion and what is reality with respect to lawmaking in our nation's capital. Maybe I need to read The Glass Menagerie again.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week:
Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone" this year among largest on record
WI state lawmakers take up phosphorus discharge rules to reduce algal blooms
Missouri Coalition for the Environment sues EPA over failure to protect waters
Mississippi River pours as much dispersant into the Gulf of Mexico as BP on a daily basis
Debate growing in US re: antibiotics used to fuel livestock growth Denmark farmers have adjusted
Danish government official testifies  before congressional subcommittee on health threat of antibiotic resistance
U of MO Center for Sustainable Energy Greening Midwest Communities Conference (Oct 19-20) registration:
Gulf Coast would get $1.2 B for restoration under House-passed Consolidated Land, Energy, & Aquatic Resources Act
Stanford U: Advances in agriculture have dramatically slowed releases of greenhouse gases
Read EDF’s latest issue of Delta Dispatches with news of Coastal Louisiana restoration at
Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee approves Sen. Chris Dodd's Livable Communities bill
EPA petitioned to ban lead in sport hunting ammunition
Goal of cleaning up Minnesota River watershed remains far behind schedule
Boat inspections failed to keep Zebra Mussels out of MN's Lake Minnetonka
Ankeny, IA aims to conserve stormwater with new incentive program

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