Washington D.C. Recap


House of Representatives:

House Floor:

H.R. 3534-the Cutting Loose Energy and Resources Act. H.R. 3534 puts the 9.2 million jobs supported by American oil and natural gas at risk by raising taxes, blocking American energy development, continuing a moratorium on deepwater drilling and completely eliminating economic liability caps.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that enacting this legislation would increase spending by $20.5 billion over ten years and would increase revenues by $22.2 billion over the same period.  Interestingly, CBO predicts over $14 billion in litigation costs alone stemming from the new energy tax in this bill.

H.R. 5850- the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2011. H.R. 5850 contains a total of $67.4 billion in discretionary spending, a decrease of $500 million from FY 2010 and $1.3 billion below the president’s request.  H.R. 5850 provides $20.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Transportation, which includes the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and the Federal Transit Administration.  This bill passed the House on July 29, 2010.

H.R. 5156, the Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Act. H.R. 5156 would authorize $75 million over five years for a new program through which the Department of Commerce would promote the development of the clean energy technology sector. The bill creates a new Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Fund, which would be administered by the International Trade Administration within the Commerce Department.  The fund would be used to promote policies to reduce production costs and encourage innovation in the clean energy sector to ensure that clean energy firms have the resources to be competitive.  The bill authorizes $15 million in each of Fiscal Years 2011 through 2015 for the new fund.  The bill defines “clean energy” as energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and either contribute to more efficient use of traditional energy sources or produce new, environmentally friendly energy sources.  This bill passed the House on July 28, 2010.

H.R. 2480-Truth in Fur labeling Act. H.R. 2480 would require labels for products that contain a relatively small quantity or value of fur, thereby ending the exemption under current law that covers items with value of up to $150.  This bill passed the House on July 28, 2010.

House Committees:

On Wednesday, July 28th the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry held a hearing to review quality control systems in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Also on July 28th, the full Committee on Agriculture held a markup of H.R. 5509, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act; H.R. 3519, the Veterinarian Services Investment Act; legislation reauthorizing mandatory price reporting and other pending business.

H.R. 5509, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Improvement Act, is a bill that gives farmers and ranchers in the Chesapeake Bay region additional tools to help them meet regulatory requirements imposed on them by the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill passed the Committee by ­­­­­­a voice vote.

H.R. 3519, the Veterinary Services Investment Act, establishes a competitive grant program at USDA to support efforts to increase access to veterinary care in underserved areas. The bill passed the Committee by a voice vote.

H.R. 5852, the Mandatory Price Reporting Act of 2010, reauthorizes mandatory price reporting programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for five years. It also adds mandatory reporting for wholesale pork cuts and electronic reporting for dairy products. The bill passed the Committee by a voice vote.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a markup of H.R. 305.  This bill would prevent the movement of horses in double deck trailers.  It passed the committee by voice vote on July 29.

United States Senate

Senate Floor

On July 29, 2010 the Senate voted 58 to 42, not to invoke cloture on the latest substitute (Amend. 4519) to H.R. 5297, the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. Substitute Amendment 4519 contained the following measures

-Improvements to Disaster Recovery to Include Aquaculture.

-Provisions to improve global markets for rural businesses.

-Agriculture disaster assistance as proposed by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)

Just prior to the cloture vote, Majority Leader Reid said that a decision had been made to strike ag disaster from the bill.

Senate Committee

The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs unanimously approved legislation that would extend the current chemical security law for three years.  The Committee did not include language opposed by Farm Bureau on Inherently Safer Technology (IST).  This provision was backed by Chairman Joe Lieberman (I/D-Conn.) and would have required high-risk chemical handling facilities to consider safer technology and processes.   This bill has the potential to add undue security burdens on small town COOPs and fertilizer and farm chemical dealers.

Administration

USDA announced a general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will take place August 2-27, 2010.  Farmers and ranchers may offer eligible land for the CRP’s competitive general sign-up at their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.  The 2008 Farm Bill authorized USDA to maintain the CRP enrollment up to 32 million acres.

Eligible land currently not enrolled in the CRP may be offered in this sign-up.  Additionally, current program participants with contracts expiring this fall may make new contract offers during this period. Contracts awarded under this sign-up are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1, 2010.

FSA will evaluate and rank offers using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI).   The following EBI factors will be used to assess applications:

*Wildlife habitat benefits resulting from covers on contract acreage;

*Water quality benefits from reduced erosion, runoff, and leaching;

*On-farm benefits from reduced erosion;

*Benefits that will likely endure beyond the contract period;

*Air quality benefits from reduced wind erosion; and

*Cost.

Checkoff

On Monday, July 26, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (BCC) released a Compliance Review of their major contractor for beef checkoff programs — the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The CPA firm that conducted the audit for CBB, Clifton Gunderson, detected a pattern of problems with adequate documentation to prove many expenses were properly allocated to the checkoff overhead that NCBA is allowed to claim as a contractor.

According to the conclusion found in the Executive Summary of the Compliance Review, “It is evident from the report that the exceptions and undetermined items identified by Clifton Gunderson occurred in all periods tested, but the prevalence was greater in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. In addition, the nature of several of the exceptions and undetermined items reported clearly indicates that NCBA breached the financial firewall during the periods tested and that NCBA did not maintain sufficient documentation in many instances to adequately support the separation of expenditures between the policy side of NCBA and the checkoff side of NCBA. Although not reported as such by Clifton Gunderson, CBB considers this lack of sufficient documentation to be noncompliance.”

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