Friday, April 13, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Farm Bill and Agriculture Appropriations Status Updates

The Senate Agriculture Committee is now very close (literally days away) from marking up a new Farm Bill, and the Committee's initial bill language should be released sometime next week, with markup being concluded during the upcoming work session (that is, before the Senate's next scheduled recess the week of April 30).  If the bill garners a strong vote of support coming out of Committee, it should then go on to be considered by the full Senate sometime this Spring or early Summer. The Conservation Title should find strong bipartisan support in the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Finding consensus on and bipartisan support for Farm Bill Title 1 language will be more problematic, with crop insurance and direct payments being major sticking points due in large part to varying regional concerns among agricultural interests.

Positions on Farm Bill issues will be decidedly more partisan in the House than in the Senate.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (D-OK) has indicated that his Committee will also attempt to actively move on a Farm Bill relatively soon.  The House Committee may pick up on the language coming out of its Senate counterpart as a starting point (perhaps modifying language based on feedback received at recent House Committee Farm Bill field hearings).  Complicating things on the House side are the “shadow reconciliation” House Budget Resolution instructions, which direct six House committees – including Agriculture - to collectively (by April 27) come up with $261 billion in spending cuts over ten years from mandatory Federal programs.  It’s expected that the House Agriculture Committee will come up with an outline of Farm Bill cuts that total the $33.2 billion in savings over ten years (including $8.2 billion in cuts during Fiscal Year 2013) in the Paul Ryan Budget Resolution. That $33.2 billion in cuts could come from a range of Farm Bill programs and Federal agriculture accounts.  The Ryan budget plan proposed that $30 billion of the cuts could come from direct farm payments and Federal crop insurance subsidies; however, those cuts would be very unpopular among House Members from farm-heavy states. So the cuts may simply (for political expediencies' sake) be tagged primarily (or even exclusively) from nutrition programs, which some House GOP members are targeting for major cuts in any case. One Republican proposal includes converting the food stamp (or SNAP) program into a state block grant program in order to limit annual program spending.

What shallow reconciliation will mean for chances to build bipartisan support for a Farm Bill in the House is uncertain, although the clear message heard from some House Democratic Agriculture Committee members recently is that the Ryan budget proposal will make getting a Farm Bill through the House this year very difficult.

Congressional discussions on Capitol Hill over  the next Fiscal Year's funding levels for Farm Bill programs will also begin soon.  The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee may start working on its Fiscal Year 2013 appropriation language within the next week or two, with its House counterpart also moving quickly, but likely after the Senate.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Agriculture -

  • EPA denies an environmental group’s (NRDC's) request to ban 2,4-D herbicide
  • NRCS Chief White promotes precision conservation-"the right fix for the right acres"
  • Steady increase in US farmland values likely to level out in coming years; no market "bust" expected

Farm Bill-

  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) top House Ag Committee Dem: "we’ll be doing the farm bill next year in the next Congress"
  • Government Accountability Office report says government could save ~$1B/yr by reducing crop insurance subsidies
  • Rep. Lucas, (R-OK) House Agriculture Committee Chair "echoes position of farmers: Leave Crop Insurance Alone"

Water Quality -

  • New American Rivers report highlighting economic benefits of green infrastructure strategies to better manage runoff
  • MO Dept of Conservation to finish assessment of stream after at least 1,000 fish found dead
  • Environmental Working Group report: "Troubled Waters:  Farm Pollution Threatens Drinking Water" link here -
  • Environmental Working Group report reignites debate over risks to water from farm runoff
  • Biggest factor in Ohio water pollution is non-point source pollution, which cannot be traced back to its sources
  • Report: AK Steel facility released > 24.3 M lbs. of chemicals into Ohio River in 2010; most of any one US facility
  • Ohio EPA suggests limiting fish consumption from many Ohio waterways
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -

  • Taxpayers for Common Sense decries bill to codify Inland Marine Transportation Systems Capital Projects Business Model
  • NRDC: 29 states underprepared to deal with climate-change-induced threats to water resources
  • Farmers along Missouri River rush to fix land, levees before planting
  • Corps of Engineers hosting listening session April 13; 1-4 PM EDT on just-released Port and Inland Waterways Modernization

Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -

  • Fed Carp official: closing Minneapolis lock and dam to stop Asian carp not a feasible long-term solution
  • Paddleboat cruises to stop using Minneapolis lock in effort to keep Asian carp at bay
  • Trucks containing 1000s of invasive Asian Carp likely traveling Midwest US interstate highways toward Canada
  • Editorial: "Biofuel Crops Make Great Invasive Species"
  • Invasive Asian Carp Get into Iowa's Okoboji Lake

Gulf Coastal Area-

Resource Extraction -

  • NE legislators authorize DEQ to evaluate options for new Keystone XL pipeline route around sensitive Nebraska Sandhills

Federal Budget -

  • Senate Budget Committee preparing to mark up Fiscal Year 2013 budget next week, as early as April 17
  • Senate Democrats apprehensive about holding another round of show votes on Republican budgets doomed to fail


  • Association of State Floodplain Managers 2012 Conference; May 20-25; San Antonio, TX

Political Scene -

  • Indiana: New poll shows incumbant Sen.  Lugar (D) with 7 percent lead against state Treasurer Mourdock (R)
  • Vulnerable incumbent Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) raised $2.3 million in first quarter of 2012

Last Word - "Over 15,000 Records Broken as March 2012 Becomes Warmest on Record."  - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in announcing this intriguing time-lapse video of the record temperatures playing out for the month across the US:

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