Both chambers of Congress were out of session this week, offering a short spring lull in Washington, D.C. Here’s a short but timely update on policy happenings of interest to wheat growers:
Both the House and Senate were out of session this week, visiting with constituents before returning to Washington to tackle the task of finalizing a federal budget for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. The current continuing resolution, approved last week, cut $6 billion from spending and expires April 8.
Senators on Deficit
Sixty-five Senators wrote President Barack Obama last Friday saying they believe “comprehensive deficit reduction measures are imperative” and calling on him to engage in a “broader discussion” about the deficit, incorporating “discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform”.
The letter is significant politically because it shows broad support – over and above the usual 60 votes needed to end debate in the Senate – for the concept of action on the nation’s fiscal situation. The letter is available online at http://johanns.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=ca17e6fe-0d78-4523-91a0-45fd9d6636a0.
NPDES Legislation Update
As of Friday, 112 House Members have signed on to co-sponsor H.R. 872, which would remove the need for NPDES permits for pesticide applications, provided those applications are done within applicable law. NAWG urges all growers to contact Members of their Congressional delegations who are not co-sponsoring the bill and urge them to do so.
Farm Bill Field Hearings
Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) announced Friday that the Committee’s first field hearing of the 2012 Farm Bill process has been scheduled for April 9 at 9:30 a.m. at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. In an advisory, the Committee said the hearing will “focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill, examining agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and nutrition policies that affect Michigan.” Witnesses at the hearing will be announced at a later date.
EPA Administrator Visits Farms
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson visited farms in California on Wednesday, also meeting privately with farmers, ranchers and Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.). Jackson penned an op-ed for the Fresno Bee about the experience, available at http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/03/22/2320562/lisa-jackson-addressing-states.html. NAWG and other agriculture groups have worked intensively in the past few years to educate EPA leaders about the unique nature of agriculture and to introduce EPA officials to farmers and their operations.
Borlaug Statute at Capitol
The Iowa state government approved this week a plan to place a statute of Norman Borlaug in the U.S. Capitol. Each state is allowed two statutes in the federal seat of government. Borlaug, who died in 2009, is known world-wide as the father of the Green Revolution, having saved perhaps a billion lives by applying innovative science and logistics to wheat and corn research.