Friday, November 18, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Congress approves spending minibus and continuing resolution, falters on debt-reduction 

Yesterday Congress easily passed a Fiscal Year 2012 "minibus" spending bill (H.R. 2112, approved in a 70-30 Senate vote, following a prior 298-121 House vote), and sent it on to the President for his signature, likely today. The measure also contains a continuing spending resolution that will keep the government funded and running through December 16. The minibus spending package includes the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture/FDA, Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bills. The funding approved in the passed bill is in line with the $1.043 trillion spending cap that both parties agreed to within August's debt-reduction bill and among numerous cuts, reduces funding for agriculture conservation programsUSDA funding includes $844 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which ended up being $58 million above the original House appropriations bill amount and $7 million above the Senate's.  And it includes $15 million for the Watershed Rehabilitation Program.

Congressional leaders have indicated over the past week that they plan to package the remaining nine appropriations bills into an omnibus bill, hoping to pass that before the current constituting spending authority ends on December 16.

In the meantime the deficit-reduction supercommittee's plan, due next Tuesday and meant to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over a decade, is on life-support, with hopes of a deal fading (see series of news links below). However, should a supercommittee deal happen, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee told POLITICO yesterday that Senate and House Agriculture Committee negotiators were close to striking a deal to pass on to the supercommittee a five-year plan (effectively a new Farm Bill) that would help meet deficit-reduction targets by projecting cuts something on the order of $23 billion from Farm Bill spending over 10 years.   Should the supercommittee not be able to reach agreement on an overall deal, the Farm Bill details now being negotiated for inclusion in the supercommittee's plan could be resurrected early next year as a beginning basis for what would then be a more "traditional" Farm Bill negotiation process.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week 
Agriculture -

  • Grants available for farm/ranch sustainable agricultural practices in North Central US: MN & ND to KS, IL, OH
  • US farm-product exports surged 27% to record $137.4 billion in year ending Sept. 30; China tops importers
  • Dry conditions have spread now into parts of the Southeast and Midwest, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor
  • Drought across US South thatís already cost $10 billion appears to be expanding its reach
  • Senators introduced the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act
  • Ohio farmers battle sedimentation, nutrient runoff in creative ways
Farm Bill-
  • Ag Committee negotiators signal they are near agreement on 5-year Farm Bill plan for supercommittee; paragraph 2:
  • House and Senate Agriculture Committees are more than two weeks behind schedule on releasing Farm Bill details
  • Farm Bureau Fed president predicts direct payment elimination, Conservation Reserve Program cuts in new Farm Bill
  • Kansas State Agri Economist says multiple commodity Farm Bill program would have higher administrative costs
Water Quality -
  • DC Circuit Court becomes latest court to rule that EPA overstepped authority & "regulated" via interim guidance
  • NY Times editorial: Republicans just won’t give up on their misguided attempts to subvert the Clean Water Act
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Flooding, etc.) -
  • Union of Concerned Scientists: Power plant water use increasing stress on lakes, rivers & aquifers across US
In the States -
  • MPCA invites comments on water quality improvement report for streams in Zumbro River Watershed (MN)
Federal Budget -
Events - 
  • USGS Webinar: New Online Management Tool to Help Guide Action on Excessive Nutrients in Rivers & Estuaries; Dec. 2
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
Political Scene - 
Last Word - "Pull a rabbit out of a hat." - what, according to House Speaker John Boehner, the deficit reduction supercommittee needs to do to meet its goal of finding $1.2 trillion in Federal budget reductions by next Tuesday.

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