The House of Representatives passed its Continuing Resolution (CR) that cuts $61 billion for the remaining seven months of fiscal year 2011. The cuts were a priority for the Republican leadership. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was the target of many of the amendments that passed during the four-day debate. Some of the amendments passed included: block funding for EPA’s proposed dust rule; not allow EPA to use funds to implement the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution rules for the Chesapeake Bay; block funds to enable EPA to retroactively withdraw clean water permits; block funds to impose new Clean Water Act restrictions on coal industry mountain top removal; and, block funds for EPA regulations that list coal ash as hazardous waste subject to regulation under the Solid Waste Disposal Act. The CR will be considered by the Senate beginning next week. The deadline for passing the CR is March 4. If Congress and the administration fail to reach an agreement by then, the government would have to shut down.
Ethanol Takes a Couple of Hits — Ethanol was dealt two major blows during consideration of the Continuing Resolution by the House of Representatives. Congressman John Sullivan’s (R-OK) amendment was adopted, which blocks Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding to implement E15. EPA had ruled earlier that vehicle model years 2001 and newer were eligible to use ethanol blends up to 15%. Also, Congressman Jeff Flake’s amendment (R-AZ) blocks funding for ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities.
Record Exports for Agriculture Projected for 2011 — USDA is projecting a record $135.5 billion in U.S. agricultural exports for 2011, $20 billion greater than the previous record set in 2008. This would result in a record trade surplus of $47.5 billion for agriculture. Compared to 2010, export volume is projected to increase 10%, while value would increase by 25%. Livestock, poultry and dairy exports are projected to reach a record $24.9 billion.
On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Grows — According to USDA’s latest survey, on-farm renewable energy production has increased significantly over the past decade. This is the result of the increase in the number of solar panels, wind turbines and methane digesters on farms and ranches. There are now 8,569 operations producing their own renewable energy, according to USDA’s 2009 On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey. The leading states are California, Texas, Hawaii and Colorado. The results of the survey can be found at www.agcensus.usda.gov.
Six Senators Not Running for Reelection – So far, six senators have announced they will not seek reelection. They include: Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Jon Kyle (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Jim Webb (D-ND).
P. Scott Shearer