Friday, January 4, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Farm Bill . . . 2013
Surprising a few, perhaps, but certainly disappointing many, Congress passed a pared-down, nine-month Farm Bill extension as part of its end-of-year "fiscal cliff" budget deal, providing congressional leaders yet another in an ongoing series of windows of opportunity to agree upon, vote on and pass a comprehensive Farm Bill; a task that eluded Congress in 2012 (see the numerous articles on the extension below, under "Farm Bill"). And while rumors circulate that Agriculture Committee staff are setting aside time in late February to mark up a new 2013 version of the Farm Bill, that date is anything but certain. Several arguably more pressing items are poised to take up much of Capitol Hill's attention over the next several months, potentially taking the urgency out of any initiative to move a comprehensive Farm Bill quickly through the respective House and Senate agriculture committees. Below are a few of those more "urgent" items.
  1. First, the Federal government will have to avert a government default by raising the debt ceiling, a limit that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told congressional leaders that the country had hit this past Monday. While Geithner said he would begin to implement “extraordinary” measures to forestall a government default, how long it will be until those measures are exhausted is unclear, given the unknown impact of the just-passed fiscal cliff legislation.
  2. By March 2, Congress and the Obama Administration will need to preempt sequestration by agreeing to additional long-term Federal budget savings.  The fiscal cliff agreement put off from January 1 until March 1 $85 billion in what are called "blunt spending cuts" that President Obama will be required to split between defense and non-defense Federal programs, something few want to see happen.  
  3. Finally, the six-month Fiscal Year 2013 Continuing Resolution that authorizes the Federal government spending expires on March 27, necessitating another spending authorization bill before then to allow the government to continue to function beyond that date.
If you throw into the mix the impending battles over Fiscal Year 2014 spending proposals and bills, the calendar becomes even more crowded. That budgetary debating season traditionally kicks off with the President's late-winter budget proposal release; a release “normally” due no later than the first Monday in February, under law. However, it has become clear that the February 4 deadline will be missed this year because of the late nature of the budget deal and its impact on future budget projections.

Given this legislative traffic jam and the fact that the basic political landscape in Washington, DC hasn't really changed between last year and 2013, it is not at all beyond the realm of possibility that a 2013 Farm Bill effort will stall and that some basic Farm Bill authorities will again be extended by the time the end of September rolls around.  Surprising few and disappointing many.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Farm Bill-
  • New Year’s tax package rushed through Congress Tuesday includes a nine-month farm bill extension
  • Farm Bill Extension details begin to emerge
  • Tax bill passed by Senate includes a nine-month Farm Bill extension
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: smaller, targeted programs to fund farm-food reform left out of tax bill
  • National Farmers Union on Farm Bill extension: Congress has left rural America out in the cold
  • National Farmers Union and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership op-ed: "time to relink conservation, crop insurance"
  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) won’t work on a new Farm Bill without congressional leaders' assurances it will get a vote
  • Farm Bill process begins anew in 2013 with less money for programs and less political clout behind the measure
  • Farm Bill extension sends comprehensive bill back to square one
  • Thad Cochran (D-MS) replaces Pat Roberts (D-KS) as Senate Agriculture Committee's ranking member; move that has Farm Bill implications
  • NPR’s “Morning Edition” -  “Farmers Frustrated By Farm Bill Extension”
Agriculture -
  • House Agriculture Committee announces five 113th Congress subcommittee chairs (including Iowa and Arkansas reps)
  • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member announces four new Democratic Committee members for 113th Congress
  • Iowa farmer preserves nature by harnessing it
  • Groups plan to turn the roof of an 8,000-square-foot warehouse into St. Louis' first rooftop farm
  • Climate changes force Kentucky farmers to try different crops, cultivation methods
  • Farmland-prairie system with built in resilience contrasts sharply with most drought-impacted Midwest landscapes
Water Quality -
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • New $1.1 billion hurricane levee proposed for New Orleans East Land Bridge
  • Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) seeks action on St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid floodway Missouri levee project
  • House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has agreed to hold two votes on Hurricane Sandy aid after coming under pressure (To read why it's controversial, see this blog post:
January 1 Drought Monitor Map
Click to Enlarge
  • Middle-U.S. snows arrested further drought deterioration but were insufficient to improve the situation
  • Reuters: Fears of new Dust Bowl form in central U.S.
  • Worst U.S. drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl is damaging wheat crops across the country's midsection
  • Much of the U.S. is still desperate for relief from the nation’s longest dry spell in decades
Low Mississippi River Levels-
  • Drought-depleted Mississippi River will remain open for barge traffic next week and possibly until January 26
  • Chicago Tribune: Mississippi River water levels lowest in decades, threaten shipping
  • Barge operators issue new warning about impacts of declining Mississippi River levels
  • 'Ice bite' could drop Mississippi River levels even more as drought continues
  • Barge union pleads for more water from Missouri River to aid Mississippi River transportation; Army Corps balks
  • Fears mount as "mighty Mississippi" runs dry in drought
  • Army Corps of Engineers is in emergency mode to keep Mississippi River barge traffic moving
In the States -
  • EPA: Iowa DNR must check 8000 livestock facilities over five years to prevent federal Clean Water program takeover
  • EPA approves Oklahoma's implementation of Agriculture Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program
Forestry -
  • Call for manuscripts: Special Issue of Forests: "Forest Restoration and Regeneration" - Deadline February 2013
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Louisiana Attorney General running out of funds to pay expenses in BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster litigation
  • Corps of Engineers might have to rebuild coastal Louisiana wetlands under existing Federal law
  • Coastal Louisiana has lost about 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930s; cemeteries being impacted
Resource Extraction -
Federal Budget -
Events -
  • Information on all past and future water and natural resource related events listed here can be viewed on the on-line calendar embedded within this Blog page (above) and here as a separate calendar.
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
  • Administrator Lisa P. Jackson stepping down from EPA Cabinet-level post after four years
  • New Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee video "The Mighty Mississippi - Managing Through Cooperation and Commitment" (direct link to video)
Political Scene -
  • The Hill: Portrait of the 113th Congress that convened Thursday
  • 112th Congress exits having enacted fewer laws than any other since 1947
  • U.S. House seat contenders start to line up against embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-4)
  • Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is angling to become GOP nominee for MO’s open U.S. 8th District House seat
  • Minnesota: Rep. Erik Paulsen 2014 U.S. Senate bid not so ‘ridiculous’ after all
Last Word - "In the environment we are working in - it is absolutely a miracle that we got it done.” - Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas (R-OK-3), speaking of the congressional fiscal cliff deal and its embedded nine-month Farm Bill extension.

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