Friday, October 21, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Appropriations and Supercommittee Update: Senate moves farm spending measure ahead
The Senate is poised to approve a package of three spending bills at the end of this month, including the USDA spending measure, after Senators worked into early Friday morning on most (although not all) of the numerous amendments to its first of three contemplated "minibus" spending bills and finally agreed to limit further debate.  The appropriations bill would set the Fiscal Year 2012 spending levels for not only the USDA, but also set science spending levels and those for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.

Amendments approved by the Senate included setting new limits on farm subsidies for wealthy farmers (those with average adjusted annual gross incomes more than $1 million; see link to news article below) and adding funding for watershed conservation programs (transferring $8 million from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service administrative account into the Watershed Rehabilitation Program). 

With respect to the farm subsidy amendment, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, argued that her Agriculture Committee had already started to work on that very issue, noting, "Give us the next ten days to come forward with the new approach that we will be offering."

Senate leaders discarded dozens of other amendments proposed for the bill.  A vote on final passage on the bill is scheduled for the week of October 31, after a week-long Senate recess. It is expected that the bill will pass then, since Senators agreed last night to cut off debate on the measure.

In the meantime, bargaining by a joint special deficit-reduction committee ("supercommittee") has reportedly entered a more intensive stage, with a top budget official indicating that detailed analysis of several savings ideas is currently underway.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week 

Agriculture -
  • Sen. Cochran (R-MS) points to shortcomings in federal agriculture disaster assistance program
  • USDA to discontinue/reduce wide range of agricultural survey programs in light of budget cuts
  • Sens. Kirk (R-IL) & Shaheen (D-NH) op-ed: Halloween filled with "tricks" for US consumers: rigged US sugar policy
  • Ethanol Producer Magazine: bull’s-eye on corn ethanol could fade if industry is more environmentally friendly
  • Senate "minibus" 2012 spending bill amendment denies farm subsidies to those with ave. adjusted gross income >$1M
  • Growing corn, soybeans or wheat in 2012 will cost producers much more than it did in 2011
Farm Bill-
  • Op-ed: Reform the farm bill, agricultural regulation at the same time
  • House & Senate Agriculture Committees Offer Recommendations for to Debt Reduction Supercommittee
  • Overview of farm program debt-reduction cuts recommended by Congressional Ag committees, Obama, Paul Ryan & others:
  • Sens. Lugar-Stutzman recommendations to supercommittee would cut $40B from Farm Bill programs over 10 years
  • Sens. Thune & Brown Farm Bill plan replaces direct payments with another commodity crop farm subsidy
  • RT @DonEWG: DeMoines Register editorial: farm subsidies shouldn't encourage destruction of soil and water quality
  • NPR Food Blog: Farm Subsidies Birds And Fish Would Choose
Water Quality -
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Flooding, etc.) -
  • Senators press Army Corps to redo Missouri River management manual & stress human safety more at Committee hearing
  • Midwestern governors seek Missouri River flood investigation (PDF of their letter to Congress:
  • New US FWS report: Status of Trends of Wetlands in Conterminous United States 2004 - 2009
  • Pacific Institute: The World's Water, Vol 7: stresses sustainable water use & management in face of climate change
In the States -
  • EPA asks IL attorney general to take enforcement action against railroad for Tiskilwa, IL ethanol spill
  • Tennessee Riverkeeper files lawsuit over over Lake Guntersville Clean Water Act violations
  • 10 years of cleanup bring Ocoee River (TN) back to life from impacts of copper mine runoff
  • $1.7 million restoration project brings Big Darby Creek (OH) "back to life"
  • New report: Endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in several TN surface waters/water supply sources
  • Man sentenced to 3 yrs; fined $80,000 for Evangeline LA water pollution violations
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Coalition of Great Lakes states & cities proposes controversial plan to re-reverse flow of Chicago River
Federal Budget -
  • Senate's draft 2012 FY Interior-EPA spending bill released but next steps unclear
  • Most debt cutting recommendations to supercommittee culled from legislative recycling bin, freshly rewrapped & regifted
  • Deficit-reduction supercommittee will hold its 4th public hearing next Wednesday on discretionary spending
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • Editorial: Will latest Gulf Task Force report finally spur action along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico?
Resource extraction -
  • Environmental groups sue to block West Virginia mountaintop coal mine permit issuance
  • OH House Bill 345 and Senate Bill 213 could delay shale gas/oil fracking in the state
  • WV citizens' groups intend to sue re: coal company Clean Water, Surface Mining Control & Reclamation Act violations
  • TransCanada offers NE $100M performance bond; other oil spill protection measures to reduce oil pipeline opposition
  • ND oil patch swelling into South Dakota, amid speculation that it could contain millions of barrels of oil
Events -
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Association meetings; Moline, IL; Nov. 14-16;
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
Political Scene -
  • KY GOP establishment poised for another loss in next month's Governor's race; Sen McConnell (R-KY) remains unscathed
  • Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has endorsed Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) for US WI Senate seat
Last Word -  Dust storm rolls into Lubbock, Texas
on the same day (October 17) that the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees announced their willingness to reduce federal Farm Bill Programs, including conservation programs, by over $23 billion as part of the effort to balance the federal budget.

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