Friday, December 13, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

"2013" Farm and Water Resources Bills Slip Into 2014
Although farm bill negotiators  report that they have made significant progress on the way toward settling a variety of differences, on Tuesday, the four main negotiators admitted that they will not reach agreement on a conference committee bill before the House recesses on December 13 for the year (the Senate is scheduled to recess starting December 19). In various statements, the Congressional agriculture leaders expressed confidence that the conference committee tasked with forging a compromise farm bill could do so in January.

In light of this further delay, another farm bill extension may be in the making.  House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) drafted a six-page, short-term extension of current farm law through January 31, 2014, which was quickly passed on a voice vote on Thursday by the full chamber.  However, there is no consensus among farm bill conferees that an extension is warranted or necessarily the best approach, politically, and some Senate leaders have said that the extension will not be voted on by that chamber. You can read several articles summarizing these recent events, below, under "Farm Bill."  You can also read more detail in our latest 2013 Farm Bill News and Resources posting (UPDATED December 13).

Meanwhile, the four lawmakers heading up the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) conference committee emerged from a Tuesday face-to-face meeting admitting that the time is limited to put such a bill before the conference committee and then move it on to the respective House and Senate chambers for separate votes. WRDA, like the farm bill, will likely be dealt with in 2014. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and ranking member David Vitter (R-LA) blamed House negotiators' inflexibility for the delay in finalizing a compromise bill (see further coverage under "Water Resources," below).

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • "Good cop, bad cop on nutrient management"
  • Wisconsin farms have spilled more than 1 million gallons of manure this year, the highest level in seven years
  • Report: Administration's proposed Clean Water Act oversight rule would have net economic benefit of up to $263.9 M/yr
  • EPA outlines phosphorus monitoring in Illinois River (Oklahoma)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Water resources bill conference committee is unlikely to reach a final agreement before the Christmas recess
  • Senate negotiators point fingers at House as Water Resources Development Act negotiations stall
  • GOP blocks Democratic motion for a Senate vote on a bill aimed at delaying flood insurance rate increases
  • Patched towboat raised two weeks after it sank in the Mississippi River
  • Barges, rail overbooked in commodity system strained by new oil demands, repair delays to river locks, backlogs
  • Removal of Minnesota Falls dam on Minnesota River near Granite Falls showing positive signs for healthier fishery
  • Army Corps of Engineers awards contract to construct floodwall on top of existing Louisiana, Mississippi River levee
  • Army Corps of Engineers begins Mississippi River rock removal in attempt to ensure river remains open to barges
Farm Bill-
  • House approves short-term extension of current farm programs through January 31 to give time for farm bill passage
  • Farm bill negotiators concede that they will not finish their work before Congress goes home for the year
  • House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson lays out plans for January farm bill passage
  • Farm bill negotiators disagree on how to handle a short-term extension
  • House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas "confident we’ll work through (issues) and finish a farm bill in January"
  • Farm policy reformers could be crucial in farm bill passage
  • Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson: lawmakers near deal that would pave way for passing farm bill in January
Agriculture -
  • Economists expect Iowa corn and soybean growers will lose money over the next four years
  • Corn futures have tumbled 39% this year—making corn one of the worst-performing commodities in 2013
  • Squeeze in profits that US farmers face comes as congressional leaders work to hammer out a new farm bill
  • Average Iowa farmland value is estimated at $8716 per acre, an increase of 5.1 percent from 2012
  • Low corn prices on the heels of near-record 2013 yields could mean increased demand for corn from ethanol producers
  • Minnesota to conduct special review of insecticides tied to dramatic decline in honeybees across U.S.
Climate and Weather -
  • The latest NOAA/NWS national update: snow alleviates Midwest/Upper Plains drought
  • USGS releases tool quantifying U.S. county-scale impacts of climate change
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Great Lakes and Mississippi River
Interbasin Study Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Army Corps of Engineers to release Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) report in January for public comment
  • Ancient farming practices seen as tools to curb the loss of endangered species
  • Interior Department revised special rule would allow landowners, industry to cause limited harm to lesser prairie chicken
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell discusses coastal resiliency in New Orleans
  • Officials unveil $627M in BP-funded Gulf of Mexico restoration projects
  • Royal Dutch Shell announces it will not build a massive gas-to-liquids plant in coastal Louisiana
Resource Development -
  • Wisconsin bill that would rewrite regulations for sand mines is up for an overhaul after worries are raised
  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources to start releasing proposed gas-oil drilling rule packages
Federal Budget -
  • The House on Thursday approved a two-year budget deal that turns off $63 billion in sequester spending cuts
  • Capitol Hill leaders agree to federal budget deal; gives lawmakers breathing room to address real spending drivers
  • Congressional Budget Office releases its analysis of the new House-Senate budget deal
  • Here are links to official summary, text and analysis of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Blog: “Budget Deal Would Slash Farm Bill Direct Spending”
  • Farmers and ranchers may have to pay for USDA assistance with conservation on their lands under budget deal terms
  • National Association of Conservation Districts concerned about budget deal's "unprecedented" USDA NRCS user fees
  • Washington Post: Here’s what’s in Paul Ryan and Patty Murray’s mini-budget deal
  • U.S. budget deal could usher in new era of cooperation
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Save the dates: 2014 Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee Annual Meeting; March 18-20, 2014; La Crosse, Wisconsin
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's December 5 watershed news
  • Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota "Currents" e-magazine for December
  • The Wetlands Initiative December 2013 e-newsletter
  • Link to December 10 "Water News and More" from  the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy, here:
  • Check out the Mississippi River Fund blog: News, Insights, and Ideas on the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area, a national park in Minnesota
In the Cities-
  • U.S. mayors  launch bipartisan coalition to push for federal funding for urban parks, trails and recreation areas
Other news-
  • Kayaker completes "source-to-sea" journey on Missouri River
  • Bureau of  Land Management taking comments on prescribed fires proposal for 3300+ acres of Upper Missouri River Breaks
  • USGS: public lands bills intended to streamline government mapping services and records could cost up to $68 billion
  • EPA plans to carry out 30 percent fewer inspections and evaluations in future than during the past five years
Politics and People-
  • Ashland City Council member Kelly Westlund, a  Democrat, plans to challenge to Rep. Sean P. Duffy (R-WI-7)
  • White House deputy on environmental council Gary Guzy to step down at the end of the month
  • Republican state  Sen. Torrey Westrom will  challenge Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-07)
  • 2014 U.S.  House race spotlight: Illinois 13th district (from POLITICO's Morning Score)
  • Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen (D) drops  out of 2014 House race against perennial target, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)
  • Sen. Thad Cochran (R-LA) announces he  will seek reelection - faces tough battle to retain seat
Last Word -
I’m happy  to see Thanksgiving and Christmas come around so that we can have some real celebration away from this place because there’s nothing to celebrate around here.” - Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), reflecting on the state of the U.S. Congress toward the end of 2013.

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