Both chambers of Congress were out of session this week, so we are providing this short update in lieu of regular news stories. Regular news will return with Congress next week.
Shutdown Averted, Until Tuesday
The House of Representatives approved in a pro forma session Thursday a continuing resolution to keep the government’s lights on as FY2012 begins – but only until Tuesday. The extremely short-term extension was necessitated by the Senate’s rejection last Friday of a CR passed by the House before that chamber left for a one-week recess. The House is expected to take up a longer-term resolution – which should run through Nov. 18 – when it returns to D.C. next week. It is unclear how smooth the path for that bill will be because of controversial disaster assistance provisions.
NPDES Permitting Debacle Bearing Down
An organization representing state regulators responsible for implementing new pesticide permitting requirements asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week to request a further stay of the regulations since practically no government agency is ready to implement them when they go into effect next month.
The new regulations emanate from a 2009 ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court, which said for the first time that pesticide applications require a Clean Water Act permit in addition to compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). NAWG and coalition partners continue to urge quick passage of H.R. 872 or another legislative solution to delay or eliminate the new and duplicative requirements.
Ag Groups Emphasize Importance of Broadband and GPS
NAWG and six other associations representing American farmers wrote the leaders and Members of the Congressional Agriculture Committees this week, urging them to press the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the importance of both rural broadband and a functional GPS system that allows for precision agriculture. The FCC is considering a waiver requested by LightSquared, a company with technology that could dramatically expand rural broadband access, but that studies show could also effectively disable GPS systems. The full letter is available at www.wheatworld.org/othercorrespondence.
NAWG Submits Comments on Common Acreage Reporting
NAWG recently submitted comments to USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) in response to a request from that agency and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for ideas on how to streamline data collection. Among other things, NAWG said the Association supports FSA and RMA working together closely to use the same acreage reporting deadlines, which would enable more accurate reporting from producers and help reduce acreage reporting errors and discrepancies between the two agencies. The full comments are available online at www.wheatworld.org/othercorrespondence.
Obama Appoints New Under Secretary, USDA Announces New Staff
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday his intention to nominate Michael Scuse as USDA’s under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS). Scuse has been deputy under secretary at FFAS since 2009, where he overseas domestic programs, and was named acting under secretary early this year.
Also, USDA recently announced the appointments of Elanor Starmer as a special assistant to the under secretary for marketing and regulatory affairs and Juan Garcia as deputy administrator for farm programs at the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Starmer previously worked at activist group Food and Water Watch. Garcia has been acting in his new role since this spring and was previously an FSA executive in Texas.
Towson Grad Joins NAWG Office for Fall Internship
Will Stafford, a recent graduate of Towson University, has joined the NAWG office for a fall internship. Stafford was born and raised in Bethesda, Md., near Washington, and graduated from Towson with a degree in economics. He said he is excited to be at NAWG and to learn more about both public policy and the agriculture industry.