Members of Congress returned to Washington this week from their annual summer recess. Here are updates on key priorities NAWG staff is following:
The appropriations process continues in Congress, with the Senate Appropriations Committee approving defense and legislative branch spending measures this week. The federal government’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30, so a continuing resolution is all but certain in the coming weeks.
Small Business Bill/1099 Issue
On Wednesday, the Senate failed to invoke cloture, or stop debate on, amendments from Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), which would have eased the burden of new 1099 reporting requirements included in the recent health care reform bill. These amendments were both supported by a broad agriculture coalition, including NAWG.
The bill to which the amendments could have been made, a piece of legislation to incentivize small business growth, passed the Senate on Thursday by a 61 to 38 vote. It is expected to be approved by the House next week and signed by President Barack Obama soon after.
Sixth Circuit Bill
NAWG staff continues to meet with coalition partners and Senate staff on the proposal from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to eliminate the need for any additional permitting for pesticide applications performed within label requirements.
Lincoln and Chambliss introduced their bill, S. 3735, in August in response to a 2009 Sixth Circuit Court decision concluding pesticide discharge is a point source of pollution subject to additional regulation under the Clean Water Act – a ruling that means producers could need additional permitting for every crop protection application, an unnecessary logistical nightmare.
NAWG and other agricultural groups are pushing for Senate consideration as soon as possible.
A long-pending food safety bill has encountered significant hurdles in the Senate in the form of opposition from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has raised a number of concerns and is preventing from moving forward. A group of Senators, consumer groups and food manufacturing organizations continue to push for passage this session.
Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization
Current authorization for childhood nutrition programs expires on Sept. 30, prompting calls to pass a pending reauthorization bill from the likes of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama. Action on the bill is being held up in the House due to concerns about the offset used by the Senate, which cuts $4.5 billion from food stamp spending increases included in last year’s stimulus package.