Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Thune (R-SD) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) have introduced legislation that will authorize loan guarantees for the construction of renewable fuel pipeline projects. The purpose of the legislation is greater transportation efficiency of renewable fuels to the major population centers, especially in the eastern part of the United States. Senator Harkin said, “Promoting the planning and development of projects that transport renewable fuels efficiently and inexpensively helps enlarge the market for biofuels like ethanol, reduces our dependence on foreign fuels, and will provide good construction jobs.” Senator Thune added, “These pipelines will reduce energy costs across the country as well as create an estimated 25 jobs for every $1 million of construction. Access to ethanol-dedicated pipelines will benefit both consumers and the ethanol industry for years to come.”
Phase-Out Ethanol Support — Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) plans to introduce the “Affordable Food and Fuel for America Act.” This legislation would phase out the 54-cent tariff for imported ethanol and the ethanol blender’s tax credit over a five year period.
Congress Rejects Farm Bill Budget Proposals — Congressional Democrats passed a $3.5 trillion budget that includes many of President Barack Obama’s proposals. However, the Congress rejected the administration’s plan to alter the 2008 farm bill by phasing out direct payments for producers with gross sales over $500,000 and capping farm payments at $250,000. The administration met strong resistance from a united agriculture community and the leadership of the House and Senate agriculture committees. There is a strong feeling among Congressional agricultural members that the 2008 farm bill made cuts in farm programs and that further cuts would weaken the agricultural economy.
FDA Delays BSE Rule — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would delay implementation of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) final rule, “Substances Prohibited from Use in Animal Food or Feed,” until June 26. FDA indicated it was taking this action because affected parties have indicated their concerns about being able to comply with the original implementation date of April 27. Some indicated difficulty to find alternate ways of disposing of material that may “no longer be rendered for animal feed use” when the final rule takes effect.
USDA Confirmations — The U.S. Senate has confirmed Kathleen Merrigan as deputy secretary of agriculture and Jim Miller as under secretary of agriculture for farm and foreign Agriculture. Krysta Hardin, chief executive officer of the National Association of Conservation Districts, has been nominated to be USDA’s assistant secretary for congressional relations. More USDA nominations are expected in the near future.
Congressional Recess — Congress is in a two-week recess, returning on April 21. Key issues will be the budget conference report and fiscal year 2010 appropriation hearings.
P. Scott Shearer