Archive for the ‘Legislative’ Category

State Legislative Update

The State Legislature is moving along well as we head into April and only 40 days left of the 2011 Legislative Session. However, the Joint Budget Committee still has no agreement on the State Budget for FY 2011-12 and therefore no ‘Long Bill’ has yet been released. CFB staff will be watching the Long Bill for any unexpected amendments.

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Shawcroft Testifies Before Congress

CFB President Don Shawcroft testified before the House Natural Resources Committee today in Washington D.C. During the hearing titled “Harnessing American Resources to Create Jobs and Address Rising Gasoline Prices: Impacts on Businesses and Families,” Shawcroft told the assembled Representatives that Americans are experiencing sticker shock at the gas pump these days, but high fuel costs are hitting America’s farmers and ranchers especially hard.

“Most Americans are feeling sticker shock caused by high gasoline prices when they fill their automobile’s tank,” Shawcroft said. “But there is no term in the English language to accurately describe what farmers and ranchers feel every time they put diesel in the tanks of their farm equipment.”

Shawcroft cited numerous examples of the economic impact currently experienced by farmers and ranchers. He said the cost just for refueling a typical tractor can be more than $1,000.

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State Legislative Update

Despite a relatively quiet session, there was movement on many bill tracked by CFB this week.  We expect to see the “Long Bill” (the State’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12) out by next week. It will be heard first in the Senate. That is when the real work will begin.

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CFB ALERT – Support Ag Sales Tax Exemption

This week the Colorado House of Representatives will consider HB 1005.

HB 1005 repeals  HB 1195, signed into law in 2010, which suspended the exemption on state sales and use taxes imposed on certain items, Ag compounds and pesticides, used in agricultural production from the period March 1, 2010, through June 30, 2013.

Repeal of HB 1195 will bring much needed tax relief to Colorado’s farmers and ranchers.  Please call your House member today and urge them to support HB 1005.  If HB 1005 is not signed into law, then Colorado farmers and ranchers will be stuck paying sales tax for their inputs, which will put them at a disadvantage to surrounding states.

Your members phone number can be found here.

Washington Recap

The U.S. Senate passed a three-week spending measure on Thursday to keep the government running through April 8. This measure contained about $6 billion in cuts to the federal budget.

The House Committee on Agriculture, House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Energy and Commerce Committee all held hearing looking at the impact of EPA regulations and restrictions on energy production.  These hearings brought great scrutiny on EPA.  Since the beginning of the 112th Congress EPA has continually been on the oversight hotseat.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also held hearings on energy production.  They looked specifically at the impact the recent Deepwater Horizon blowout.  This blowout is being used by the administration to block new drilling permits.

 

State Legislative Update

HB 1123 prohibits financial transfers from severance related funds unto the general fund. This bill has successfully passed the House and will head to the Senate State Affairs Committee. It is being sponsored by Rep. Coram and Sen. Roberts. CFB is supportive.

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Another Short Term Extension for the Federal Government

Ove the past few weeks you have seen information regarding the federal budget, CR’s and what is likely to happen.  With the last CR extension about to run out last Friday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) introduced H.J. Res. 48, a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government for an additional three weeks, until April 8.  The current CR expires on Mar. 18.  The bill will be on the House floor this week.

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State Legislative Update

The Senate Ag Committee moved two favorable measures forward to the Senate Floor this week with the passage of HB 1159 which allows the Commissioner of Agriculture to license a grain protein analyzer before the analyzer is operated for commercial use and HB 1083 which adds hydroelectricity and pumped hydro to the list of technologies that the PUC may give full consideration of for use. CFB is in support of both of these measures.

The House and Senate will continue next week with full calendars of floor work (for 2nd and 3rd readings of numerous bills). We are still anticipating a handful of bills that we will engage on to be released in the coming weeks. The Long Bill (State’s Budget) is not expected to come out for a few weeks yet. The JBC is busy at work with long days of hearings to address the $1Billion shortfall in next year’s budget.

For a complete list of bills that CFB is currently following please check out the link to the Legislative Tracking List.

As a reminder, next week is National Ag Week – March 13 through the 19th – www.agday.org

Colorado will be celebrating National Ag Day on Wednesday, March 16th at the Colorado State Capitol!

House Panel Passes Bill Stripping EPA of GHG Authority

The House Energy and Power Subcommittee approved a bill Thursday that would strip EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has promised the bill will come before the House floor within weeks.

AFBF supports H.R. 919, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) that would permanently eliminate EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants, refineries, farms and ranches. It also overturns a finding by EPA that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.

A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate. President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any legislation that would override EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

House Ag Committee Considering FIFRA Permitting Bill

The House Agriculture Committee passed, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, Wednesday. The bill, introduced by Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), and Joe Baca (D-Calif.), reduces the regulatory burdens imposed by the National Cotton Council v. EPA case.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging Congress to pass H.R. 872. The measure would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to clarify that CWA permits are not needed when a pesticide is applied in accordance with the FIFRA-approved label.

In related news, EPA last week requested that the court grant a stay of the deadline for permit coverage until Oct. 31. The current court-ordered deadline is April 9. During the period while the court is considering the extension request, permits for pesticide applications will not be required under the CWA.

AFBF Urges House Members to Co-Sponsor NPDES Permit Bill

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote to members of the House today urging them to support passage of H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, and sign on as co-sponsors.

“In addition to agricultural producers, a significant number of stakeholders will be impacted by a new federal requirement under which the Environmental Protection Agency and delegated states must issue Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permits for certain pesticide applications,” Stallman told lawmakers in his letter. “This unprecedented action is the result of a 2009 decision of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.”

Stallman called on Congress to take action before the permit requirement becomes final.

“We are concerned that due to unrealistic deadlines for state-delegated implementation and compliance many states will not meet the court ordered deadline of April 9, 2011,” Stallman wrote. “Adding to the uncertainty, EPA has yet to release a final permit. This leaves pesticide users without time to fully understand or come into compliance with the permit and further increases their potential liability.”

State Legislative update

Bills moving forward….. as we are getting to the half way point of the Colorado 2011 Legislative Session. To date there has been 273 House Bills and 185 Senate Bills plus a handful of Resolutions introduced. That is about 80 or so bills less than there was at this time last session. Many would credit this to a Republican House and Democrat Senate, the split makes it more difficult for controversial measure to move forward.

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House Ag Committee Hearings

Today I received the follow notice for hearing to be held by the House Agriculutre Committee.

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture announced the following committee schedule.

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EPA Announces SPCC Workshops

The past couple weeks I have received calls from CFB members about EPA’s SPCC program.  This program is aimed at reducing oil spills and controlling them if they do happen.  Depending on how much oil and oil products you store on your farm, this regulations may affect you directly.

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The EPA, NPDES pemits, pesticides and you

This winter as you have talked with your friends I am sure that the EPA somehow entered the conversation. Be it spray nozzle regulations, attempts to regulate dust, making sure that water is safe from spilled milk or generally just being a pain and hassle, the EPA seems to be everywhere. 

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AFBF Backs Bill to Preempt EPA GHG Regulations

Congressman Fred Upton, (R- Mich.) Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has said that he plans on hearing testimony from EPA administrator Lisa Jackson so frequently, that he will assign her a parking space at the Capitol.

AFBF supports the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 that House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) plans to introduce today. Upton’s bill would preempt regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency based on climate change considerations.

“The regulation of GHG does not fit within the current framework of the Clean Air Act. Unlike other regulated pollutants, where Clean Air Act thresholds are sufficient to regulate the largest emitters, GHG regulation at statutorily required thresholds holds the prospect of costly and burdensome permit requirements on farms, ranches, schools, hospitals and some large residences,” AFBF President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter sent to Upton today, announcing Farm Bureau’s backing of the bill.

The bill has bipartisan support. House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) plans to be a cosponsor. “The EPA needs to be reined in,” said Peterson.

Across the Capitol, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate today. Stallman also wrote to Inhofe, pledging Farm Bureau’s support of his bill.

 

Latest on Possible Government Shutdown

Last week I wrote a piece on The Pulse about a possible government shutdown, this Friday will see the end of the current continuing resolution (CR) that the federal government is currently working under.  If Congress is unable to come to terms on another CR by 11:59pm on Friday the government will shut down for lack of funding.  That being said, the latest news from Washington, DC says that a short, 2 week CR is in the works to prevent a government shutdown.

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State Legislative Update

Referred to the Voters!!! Victory for SCR – 001 (Ballot Measure Initiative Reform) successfully passed the full Senate and House this week with greater than 2/3rds support from both chambers in order to become a referred measure on the 2012 Ballot. Troy Bredenkamp, Exec. VP for CFB, testified as the voice for agriculture and rural Colorado on this measure in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Farm Bureau would like to thank all those legislators that supported this measure which will help to strengthen the voice for rural Colorado in the initiative process.

Also successfully passing the House chambers this past week and being referred to the Senate were the following measures:

HB 1004 – Rep. Baumgardner’s Farm Truck Registration bill

HB 1083 – Rep. Swerdferger’s Hydroelectricity and Pumped Hyrdo bill

HB 1084 – Rep. Baumgardner’s Modify Late Vehicle Registration Fee bill 

HB 1093 – Rep. Bradford’s Special Mobile Machinery Ownership bill

HB 1111 – Rep. Sonnenberg’s CDA Livestock Confidential Data bill

HB 1192 – Rep. Coram’s bill to give CDOT authority to authorize state highways for travel with longer vehicle combinations

DEFEATED:   HB 1165 (Align County Treasurer Water Dist. Fees) was successfully killed this week (2/23) in the House Local Government Committee. CFB was working in opposition to this bill which would have allowed the county treasurer’s office to dramatically increase fees for their services to collect irrigation and drainage district assessments. There was testimony for willingness of a more appropriate increase in this fee; however, this bill would have caused an unreasonable fee increase for some of our irrigation districts across that state that would have seen their fees go from $100 to greater than $12,000.

Farm Program Cuts Not Part of Continuing Resolution

Congressmen walk down the steps of the Capitol on Saturday morning, capping an all-night session.

In an early Saturday morning vote, the House approved H.R.1, the continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, that includes $60 billion in spending cuts and a number of amendments designed to impede President Barack Obama from carrying out his policies

Final passage came on a 235-189 vote just before dawn, after an all night-session and a week of debate where almost 500 amendments were considered. Amendments to put caps on farm program payments were defeated on direction from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), who said discussion on farm subsidy cuts should wait until the 2012 farm bill debate.

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Committee to Hold Oversight Hearing on Interior Department

Today I received the following notice, located below, from the House Natural Resources Committee. This issue is one of great inportance to CFB members because this order basically decalres Congress null and void when determining what is wilderness.

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Notes From the House Ag Committee Hearing

HB 1150 – Rep. Becker’s Concerning additional revenues for water storage projects bill was PI’d (LOST) in Committee on Monday. Rep. Becker had worked out an agreement with DNR and been in communication with Rep. Sonnenberg to see this deal through, that if Rep. Becker pulled the bill DNR would require that DOW designate funds in their five year master plan to be specifically for water projects. They are to designate ~$6 Million over the next five years. With much heated opposition on this measure, this was believed to be the best option. Farm Bureau is proud of the work Rep. Becker has done to work to make water storage projects a priority.

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The Federal Budget, the CR, and You

Potential Government Shutdown Could Affect Producers

It is strongly advised that if you need to do business with an FSA office, BLM office or any other federal government office, do it before March 4.

As you no doubt have heard the House of Representatives spent the majority of last week debating what is known as a Continuing Resolution.  Continuing Resolutions, or CR’s as they are known in Washington, DC speak, are short term budget measures used to fund the federal government while Congress debates a budget.  Shortly before the end to the 111th Congress passed CR until March 4th.

If by 11:59pm on March 4th Congress has not passed and the president has not signed either a budget or a CR then the federal government will shut down.  While no one wants this to happen, but it looks like there is a real possibility of it happening.  The last government shutdown occurred in 1995.

Some of you will be saying that a shutdown of the government is not such a bad thing.  But,  if the government shuts down, that will mean the FSA offices, BLM offices and any other federal office will not be able to do business.

Hopefully we will not see a government shutdown, but the best advice I can give is to plan as if it is going to happen.

State Legislative Update

Here is a highlight of some of the major happenings from the Colorado State House and Senate this week:

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Amendment Debate on H.R. 1 Continues in House

After three days of debate on H.R. 1, the continuing resolution to fund the government for the remainder of this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the House has considered more than 80 of 583 amendments, either by voting on them, declaring them out of order or having them withdrawn.

A unanimous consent agreement has been reached that limits the number of amendments that are in order. Voting on the amendments continues today. Farm Bureau has a position on three of the amendments that are still being considered.

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Washington Recap

The House of Representatives:

House Floor:

The House spent the majority of the week considering amendments to H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolutions Act of 2011.  This measure would fund the United States government until later in 2011 when the FY2012 federal budget is considered.  At the time of writing this, a final vote had not been taken.  The amendment process saw over 500 amendments for the House to work through.  I hope to have the status of amendments of interest to Colorado Farm Bureau members sorted out and if they passed or failed soon.

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Amendment Seeks to Kill Funding for Wild Horse Managment

Debate continues today on the Continuing Resolution in the U.S. The bill would fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year. Many amendments have been proposed and AFBF has taken a position on 22 of them.

Today an amendment was approved that would cut $2 million from the Bureau of Land Management’s budget in protest over the agency’s wild horse roundups. Indiana Republican Dan Burton says his amendment is intended to send a signal to BLM officials that most Americans want the mustangs treated more humanely on public lands. Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says Congress passed a law 40 years ago to protect the horses on the range, but that today there are more than 40,000 in holding pens and only 30,000 in the wild.

Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis was among those opposed. She says the well-meaning horse advocates are “loving the creatures to death” by fueling overpopulation of herds that damage the rangeland they depend upon.

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Budget Day!

President Obama is set to release his $3.73-trillion, 216-page budget for FY 2012 today at 10:30 a.m. est.

For the current year, the White House projects a $1.6 trillion deficit. Outlays would drop in 2012 and stabilize in the $3.7 trillion range as deficits fall to $1.1 trillion in 2012 and then $768 billion in 2013.

***Update***

President’s Budget Ends Payments to Top-Earning Farmers

In his fiscal 2012 budget plan released today, President Barack Obama proposed eliminating federal farm payments to U.S. farmers with the highest adjusted gross incomes (AGI). President Obama argued that under the current system, payments distort the farm sector and some farmers are paid even when no crops are grown.

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Legislative Briefs…

The Colorado General Assembly has got down to business this week, addressing numerous pieces of legislation. The Senate has been dealing with supplemental bills, trying to refill the hole in this current fiscal year’s general fund budget. Those measures will move to the House next week.

Last week Farm Bureau assisted in killing SB 17, a bill which would have increased Anhydrous Ammonia Incident Reporting Requirements. CFB has agreed to further discussions over the interim with the Department of Ag to understand what exactly needs to be addressed with reporting incidents. The Senate State Affairs Committee killed a number of measures this week including, SB 35 – Prohibit Severance Related Revenue to Gen Fund.

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Washington D.C. Recap

This week was a light week in Washington, DC because of CPAC holding their annual meeting.

House of Representatives:

House Floor:

The House met for 2 days this week.  The House began debate on extending expiring provision of the USAPatriot Act.

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Washington Egg Bills Aim to Short-circuit HSUS Initiative

Egg producers in Washington are working to prempt HSUS and its planned ballot measure to limit the food choice of citizens in the state. Two bills which carry bipartisan support are working their way through the Washington legislature would establish minimum standards for egg laying hen farms.

The bills would codify the United Egg Producer production and housing standards into Washington law. The program addresses such issues as hen space requirements, air quality, handling standards, hen treatment and facility requirements.

Kiasa Kuykendall, of Stiebrs Farms in Yelm, Wash., told the senators the HSUS asked her farm to go 100 percent cage-free. About 5 percent of her farm’s eggs are from cage-free hens.

“The proposed ban (on cages) would go against the customers. We would not survive,” she said.

(Image: Offbeat Photography)
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