Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week - Holiday Weekend Early Edition

Let the Games Begin
The US Congress returns from its month-long recess next Tuesday and will immediately dive into the task of addressing two Federal spending issues.  Here is what we can expect to happen:

  1. The "Supercommittee," formed under provisions of  the Budget Control Act of 2011 signed into law on August 2, will have a window of opportunity to make targeted cuts from Federal programs running over the next ten Federal fiscal years (that window, under the new law lasts until November 23). If a proposal is developed and then approved by the Supercommittee, the committee’s report and legislative language is required to be issued by December 2, and then be presented to the House and Senate on a "take-it-or-leave-it" basis. Congress will need to vote on the Supercommittee's proposal by December 23.  There is more to the process, which those policy junkies among you can read up on in our August monthly Mississippi River Basin Update.
  2. Although provisions to raise the debt limit and create the Supercommittee drew most of the attention to the Budget Control Act, the measure also importantly established Federal spending limits for the next two fiscal years (2012 and 2013). So now that they know how much spending authority they have for the 2012 fiscal year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees next week will jump headlong into preparing the twelve spending bills that will ultimately determine specific Federal agency spending limits for the next fiscal year.   And while members of Congress will likely still disagree over how much spending is funneled toward which Federal agencies and to defense, Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike have noted that the bipartisan compromise on 2012 and 2103 spending contained in the budget control legislation makes it unlikely that an appropriation's impasse will bring Congress to the brink of closing the government.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week:  
Agriculture -

  • IA Farm Bureau: compliance with conservation programs should not be condition for purchasing fed-subsidized insurance
  • US cotton growers drop insistence that Congress preserve existing system of farm subsidies
  • August 9 Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative Partner meeting info  now posted online by NRCS
  • Converting cropland from corn to higher-ethanol-yielding biofuel crops could put pressure on H2O resources
  • This week's High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal issue focuses on "Protecting Our Waters" & Gulf hypoxia
  • transcript of last Thursday's Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill field hearing (Kansas City) (pdf)
  • Good economic times return for corn-based ethanol industry while candidate dodges ethanol question
  • Net 2011 farm income is forecast by USDA ERS to be up 31 percent from 2010
  • IA Farm Bureau president praises "farmer friendly" environmental & regulatory policies of Gov. Branstad
  • Corn Growers Assc policy objective for next farm bill: development of "effective, affordable crop insurance program"

Water Quality-

  • Electric Power Research Institute to use Conservation Innovation Grant for Ohio River Basin water quality trade pilot
  • Poll finds national support for protecting & restoring LA's coastal wetlands & limiting Mississippi Basin pollutants
  • USGS: Widely-used herbicide (Roundup) commonly found in Mississippi River Basin rain & streams
  • Ohio River Basin part of pilot water quality trading market program
  • EPA holds public meeting in first step to determine new pollution limits for impaired Floyds Fork watershed (KY)

Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Flooding, etc.) -

  • Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX): FEMA is "Deeply Flawed" System
  • Federal FEMA disaster aid has been made available to Iowa for July 27-29 storms & flooding
  • Documentary "The Big Uneasy" - much of Katrina damage to New Orleans preventable with better planning/engineering
  • Agreement between Louisiana & Corps re: Lower Mississippi River study draws conservation community praise

In the States -

  • DesMoines Register op-ed: Iowa DNR's confined feedlot water quality enforcement continues to be non-existent
  • AR commission grants mining company relaxed new treated water quality standards to the dismay of area residents

Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -

  • Fish and Wildlife Service director: must work to restore credibility re: what drives FWS endangered species listings
  • SD Dept. of Game, Fish & Parks pheasant brood survey shows 46% decline from 2010; weather & CRP acreage loss blamed
  • Six attorneys general seek Great Lakes, Mississippi basin split

Federal Budget -

  • Here is a handy primer on the deficit reduction Supercommittee and what it will be doing through the end of the year
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) predicts the new deficit-cutting supercommittee will fail

Gulf Coastal Area-

  • New Orleans post-Katrina recovery still "spotty"
  • Poll finds national support for protecting & restoring LA's coastal wetlands & limiting Mississippi Basin pollutants
  • Gulf of Mexico oil spill research grants go to 8 consortia ($112.5 million over 3 years)

Resource extraction -

  • Op-ed: The Pacific Institute calls for better monitoring of water contamination from fracking

Events - 

  • 2011 Horinko Group Water Resources Summit; October 25; U of MD College Park
  • 13th Biennial Governorís Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System; Oct 4-6; Peoria
  • 2011 Upper Mississippi River Conference; Sept 21-23, Bettendorf, IA
  • First Biennial IL River RiverWatch Symposium, Peoria, Illinois, October 4
  • Iowa university extensions' Sept. 12 webinar to address recovery for flood-impacted cropland
  • Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative 2011 Statewide Mtg; Sept 29-Oct 1, Green Bay, WI
  • Farm Foundation Forum: Data Collection on Agriculture in a Time of Fiscal Constraints; Washington DC; Sept. 13

e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -

  • Northeast-Midwest Institute's August Update (PDF file) on Mississippi River Basin issues is now available

Other news-

  • Clean Water America Alliance accepting US Water Prize nominations through December 7
  • GAO: EPA research/technical activities fragmented; largely uncoordinated after not implementing 1992 recommendations
  • Indiana power companies warn of a "regulatory train wreck" due to new Fed air, water & waste regulations
  • Complexity theorist formula predicts social unrest related to corn price trends & ethanol-related price spikes
  • USGS study of 23 trace elements & radon in groundwater nationwide from 1992-2003
  • GOP lawmakers accuse major environmental groups of profiting from taxpayers by suing the federal government

Political Scene - 

  • Former GOP Rep. Mark Neumann enters WI US Senate race
  • WI state Speaker Fitzgerald (R) joins in race for soon-to-be open Senate seat (US Sen Kohl's seat)
  • House Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA) outlines GOP agenda for thwarting EPA & other regulations
  • Republican Beth Ann Rankin, who lost to Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) in 2010, will run for US House again

Last Word"Cultivate a better world."
Coldplay's song "The Scientist" is performed by Willie Nelson in this new short (2:20 minute) film entitled, "Back to the Start" and posted on YouTube. The animated film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer who slowly turns a family farm into an industrial animal operation before opting for a return to a much smaller scale operation.  Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle, so there is a very innocuous add placement for at the end of the piece, along with the message, "Cultivate a Better World."

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