Friday, July 13, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Farm Bill Passes Out of House Committee Facing an Uncertain Floor Fate
The House Agriculture Committee passed its vision of a 2012 Farm Bill early in the morning on Thursday (July 12), following 15 hours of grueling and sometimes contentious debate and discussion over a series of 109 offered bill amendments. In the end, the bill passed by a healthy and bipartisan 24-vote margin, 35-11.

The House version of the bill contrasts significantly with a farm bill passed by the Senate in June both on their total price tags, and on several major issues, primarily crop subsidies and nutrition programs (and to a lesser extent rural development). The possibility is growing that House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor may try to avoid a bitter floor fight on those Farm Bill issues, where both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats would pick apart the bill from their respective positions. Seeking to steer clear of such a debate, House leadership may opt instead to leave the House bill in the hands of Committee Chair Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, providing them the opportunity to negotiate a Farm Bill deal with their Senate counterparts (Senators Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts) in conference committee. The Farm Bill product that emerges from that process would then simply be subject to one roll call vote on the House floor.

Whether the House opts for that process or for a full-blow floor debate, the legislative clock is ticking. The authority of the current Farm Bill lapses at midnight on September 30, and a mere 12 scheduled working days remain on the legislative calendar before both the Senate and House recess for their annual August exodus from the Washington, DC heat and humidity.

For more on the week's Farm Bill activity, see this earlier blog post and the numerous news links, immediately below.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Farm Bill-
General News
  • Izaak Walton League’s "solution-oriented steps for reauthorizing a 2012 Farm Bill"
  • Farm Bureau Federation  & Farmers Union  convey Farm Bill priorities to House Agriculture Committee
  • Liberal Democrats are fuming over $16 billion in cuts to food stamp programs included in the House farm bill
  • CBO analysis: Senate passed Farm Bill would spend $23.1 B/10 yrs less than that if programs were simply continued
  • CBO estimates that enacting House Farm Bill proposal would reduce direct spending by $35.1 billion over 10 years
  • New study by Agricultural and Food Policy Center concerns economic impacts of House & Senate Farm Bill proposals (PDF)
House Agriculture Committee Activity
Reaction to House Committee Passage
  • House Ag Committee Chair and Ranking Member issue statements after Committee approves Farm Bill
  • USDA Secretary Vilsack criticizes House Agriculture Committee's farm bill passage in statement
  • Environmental Working Group issues reaction statement after House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill passage
Next Steps
  • Senate and House versions of farm bill each play on different ambitions and anxieties of farmers
  • House and Senate lawmakers are headed for a Farm Bill collision over funding for food stamps
  • House Agriculture Committee's defeat of food stamp cut amendment may have effectively killed hopes of passing bill
  • House Ag Committee challenge to Senate Farm Bill crop insurance reform sets up passage roadblock with time running out
  • House Speaker Boehner refuses to guarantee Farm Bill floor time, saying that some provisions concern him
  • Republican House leaders fear a messy debate and  may squash farm bill
Agriculture -
  • Diverse organizations deliver two letters to House farm committee leaders in support of Protect Our Prairies Act
  • US farmers plant 96.4 million acres of corn this year, making it highest corn acreage in last 75 years
  • USDA: Climate change likely to cost Corn Belt between $1.1 and $4.4 billion a year
  • St. Charles County, Missouri crops wither in record heat
  • In face of drought, USDA slashes corn crop season-end inventory forecast estimate by hefty 37% (page 2)
  • USDA Secretary Vilsack: Improved seed technology and improved efficiencies help limit corn losses in drought
Water Quality -
  • Subsurface gravel wetlands are highly effective at advanced stormwater treatment
  • GAO says that EPA and USDA programs targeting farm and urban runoff fall short of goals
  • GAO: Key EPA water quality program needs greater oversight
  • Farm Bureau Federation launches "Stop the Flood of Regulation" push to halt EPA and Army Corps Clean Water Act guidance
  • Nitrate - a dead zone pollutant - grows despite decades of work. But who's the culprit?
  • National Center for Environmental Economics paper: Water Quality Index Aggregation and Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Cattle feedlot near Broken Bow, NE agrees to pay $145,000 civil penalty to EPA for discharge to stream
  • WI Supreme Court to rule in case pitting large farm against town worried about water quality
  • WI Supreme Court: town cannot impose water-quality standards on a livestock farm tougher than state's rules
  • EPA seeks Iowa DNR action to correct deficiencies in the state’s CAFO Permitting and Compliance Program
  • EPA seeks public comment on proposed changes to list of impaired waters for Missouri
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
In the States -
  • WI Governor Walker declares state of emergency in 42 counties as drought deepens
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Congress to Army Corps: speed up planning to stop Asian carp from moving from Mississippi basin into Great Lakes
  • Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Comm commits to getting Congressionally-mandated progress report out in 3 months
  • Grant awarded by Illinois for Grafton IL Asian carp processing plant
  • # of ducks in US and Canada reach highest level ever recorded; an estimated 48.6 million
  • New study: FWS rarely considered nonagency scientists' suggestions in making critical habitat designations
  • Asian carp impact on Mississippi River Basin ecology remains unclear
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • BP settlement for 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil  spill provides economic boost for Louisiana
  • Restore Act signed into law: will send billions of dollars in BP oil spill fines to Gulf Coast for restoration
  • Restore Act $ to help build 16-foot earthen levee around Crown Point, Jean Lafitte and nearby Louisiana communities
Resource Extraction -
  • Keystone XL: Compromise route around Nebraska Sand Hills still crosses sandy hills
  • TN Dept of Environment and Conservation tries to iron out standards and guidelines for fracking
Federal Budget -
  • GOP and Democrats fiddle with meaningless health care debating as unemployment, tax cut and budget crises loom
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
Political Scene
  • GOP Senate primary slugfest could aid Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) in her run for reelection
  • Marquette University poll suggests that former Governor Thompson and Eric Hovde lead GOP US Senate primary in Wisconsin
Last Word 
"They don’t have much to do on the floor until August first anyway. I don’t know what their excuse is to not get us on the floor.” - House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), reflecting on the reticence shown thus far by House Leadership to schedule floor time for the House to consider the Farm Bill before Congress members flee Washihgton DC for the month of August.

And speaking of fiddling while Rome burns (my words, not Mr. Peterson's), here's a very nice five-minute fiddling musical piece that I hope you all enjoy with your Friday morning's coffee or tea: violinist Natalie MacMaster and Thomas Dolby playing Dolby’s original song “Blue Is a River” in an ethereal duet.
Natalie MacMaster is a star of Cape Breton fiddling, a Canadian tradition with Scottish roots.  That tradition really comes out at the very end of the piece (with a little dancing thrown in for good measure!).


  1. Ah, Natalie McMaster. A unique talent. This little town on the Mississippi River headwaters has a special relationship with her as she returns here to play often. The video was indeed a treat with morning coffee.