Friday, February 17, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Neither Here Nor There - The President's Budget
On February 13 the Obama Administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the President's fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget plan, modifying slightly in the process several of the Administration's consistent conservation, natural resource and environmental initiatives.  Spending proposals for a variety of relevant Federal agencies, departments or programs are highlighted at this link, along with an overview of
some of the budget plan's significant provisions as they relate to the Mississippi River Basin.  Links are provided to each institution's budget summary and to the respective OMB budget appendix, where much more detail can be found.

As far as what this all means: it's best remembered that the Administration's budget proposal is just that - a proposal.  In recent years nothing closely resembling the President's budget requests have made their way through Congress and been reflected in appropriation measures that were finally passed.  And during this election year, in particular, the budget plan has much more to do with a 2012 re-election bid than with any actual spending ability that Federal agencies will see anytime soon.  In the meantime, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) is already preparing his own FY 2013 budget plan, which will form the basis for a House Budget Resolution.  Ryan plans to release his budget blueprint in the near future.  That plan will effectively be a Republican response to the President’s proposed budget (hint: Republican leaders have already declared the President's proposal "dead on arrival").

On top of these election-year complications, there is the matter of across-the-board $1.2 trillion in Federal spending cuts that are automatically scheduled to begin on January 1, 2103 under provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011, passed by Congress and signed into law last August.  Known as "sequestration," these mandatory cuts kick in if Congress fails to enact a deficit-reduction bill containing at least $1.2 trillion in cuts (which Congress has failed to do).   The role that looming sequestration will have on the budget and spending debate in 2012 is largely unknown, but should be substantial to say the least.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Agriculture -
  • Comprehensive and finest-resolution analysis to date finds global agriculture consumes 92% of fresh water used annually
  • President's FY 2013 Budget Proposal calls for significant USDA program changes: subsidies, insurance, conservation
  • EPA's new Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Permit Writers’ Manual  (explains CAFO permitting requirements)
  • Agri-Pulse Online covers Senate Agriculture Committee hearing featuring USDA Sec. Vilsack; crop insurance discussions
  • Crop insurance importance and criticism of President’s proposed cuts to it were repeated themes at Senate USDA hearing
  • Economic pressures could be tempting many farmers to choose corn & soybean crops rather than conservation
  • 4-year Iowa State University study: Corn yield jumps 5-10 % using cover crops; helps reduce soil erosion
  • 2011 farmland values in heart of US corn belt escalated 22 % - biggest annual increase since 1976 (PDF)
Farm Bill-
  • Group of 82 diverse organizations send letter to Congress: farm bill should be written and completed this year; article:; letter PDF:
  • Senate Agriculture Committee leaders called for quick action on writing a new farm bill
  • Delta Farm Press article: “Crop insurance likely a key component of new farm bill”
  • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Peterson [D-MN]: next Farm Bill could be tied to payroll tax cut bill
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow (D-MI): agrees with President's budget on direct payments; not insurance
  • Senate Ag Committee Chair Stabenow (D-MI): Obama budget proposal cuts reinforce need for new Farm Bill this year (PDF)
  • AGree Online background paper on farm policy: “Farm Program History and Policy Considerations”
  • Senate Ag Committee held first Farm Bill  hearing of year on Wednesday as ramp up to Bill debate starts; info here:

Water Quality -
  • Sen. Paul (R-KY) introduces "Defense of Environment and Property Act" - redefines Clean Water Act jurisdiction
  • Groups issue notice of intent to sue Office of Surface Mining over TN coal mine discharges
  • EPA issues orders to 2 LA chicken facilities for discharging into Dugdemona River tributary (Mississippi basin)
  • New study finds Minnesota groundwater is contaminated with low levels of chemicals of emerging concern
  • Background: lawsuit by 22 IL drinking water providers vs Syngenta AG subsidiary, demanding payment for atrazine removal
  • National implications: FL water pollution standards rule clears Legislature; head toward administrative law hearing
  • Bill introduced to reauthorize water research institutes; add green infrastructure program
  • EPA issues 2012 Clean Water Act construction general permit; implements new effluent limitations guidelines
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • New University of Twente (Netherlands) study maps global water consumption; US ranks third among nations
  • Tribal representatives express concern over de-funding of long-term Missouri River Recovery ecosystem study
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) wants to remove Corps of Engineers from lead role on Federal construction water projects
  • Mississippi levee board asks court to revive flood control project vetoed by EPA in 2008 over wetland concerns
  • Senate leaders being pressured to pass flood insurance bill before program expires and hurricane season starts
  • Senators join conservation and taxpayer group CEOs in push for Flood Insurance Program reauthorization
In the States -
  • Minnesota agencies release their first collaborative report on state's Clean Water Fund; showing 2010-11 activities
Forestry -
  • USDA Blog: US Forest Service to host 7th annual “Virtual Summit”
  • House Natural Resources Committee considers bill requiring USFS to expand national forest resource development
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Feb. 17 is last day to comment on Army Corps options for controlling Mississippi-Great Lakes non-native aquatic species
  • MN boating fees will likely rise, but other funding sources needed to battle aquatic invasive species
  • Patrick Nunnally from River Talk  @RiverLifeUMN Looks at the Asian Carp Issue
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • Gulf Restoration Network's opinion piece on Louisiana’s decision to not list state coastal waters as impaired:
  • New nonprofit science institute formed to coordinate research on restoring Louisiana coast
  • House passes bill directing most BP spill fines to Gulf restoration; fate of bill uncertain
Resource extraction -
Federal Budget -
  • USA Today analysis: Spending by states and cities declines: Budget restraint is most in a decade
  • Registration now open for the 2012 Ohio Stormwater Conference; June 6-8; Toledo
  • Public Information Sessions on Draft National Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Climate Adaptation Strategy; Feb 14 & 22
  • USDA Blog: US Forest Service to host 7th annual “Virtual Summit”
  • Save the date: EPA Safe & Sustainable Water Resources Stakeholder meeting; March 28 Washington, DC (more to follow)
  • EPA webinar: Recovery Potential Screening Tool for Comparing Impaired Waters Restorability; Feb. 22, 1 PM EST
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Assoc has posted Feb 29-March 1 meeting agendas; background materials (open to public) 
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • The Horinko Group's monthly "sustainabulletin" is now available on line with farm and water resource news updates; more
  • EWG launches daily report on "food and farm news during the 2012 farm bill debate" sign up here:
Other news-
Last Word 
“Zero.” - Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) when asked by a Politico reporter what the chances are that Congress will deal with issues of profound consequence between now and November.  Graham added, “If you’re looking for a positive spin on this, I don’t have one to give you.”

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