As the year comes to an end, all eyes are turned on Washington, DC, to see whether Congress takes action to address the debt crisis looming over our country. While the Super Committee was unable to reach an agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit by its November 23rd deadline, the problem still remains and must be addressed. I am continuing to work with members from both sides of the aisle to stabilize our debt and secure America's future.
Since our last update, I have taken a number of steps to provide Idaho agriculture with the tools it needs for success. We've enacted three long-awaited trade bills that will have a positive impact on Idaho agriculture, we've passed a USDA budget that includes both important funding for agriculture research and policy changes to remove existing arduous regulations, and I continue working to prevent agencies like the EPA from imposing unnecessary regulations on farmers and ranchers. I continue to value your feedback on these and other issues impacting the agriculture industry.
Agriculture Appropriations Bill Signed into Law
On November 17, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2112, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, by a bipartisan vote of 298-121. This legislation included the conference reports for the FY12 Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The bill includes $19.8 billion in discretionary spending for the United States Department of Agriculture and related agencies. Here are a few of the bill's important provisions:
* Potatoes and Child Nutrition -- H.R. 2112 included an amendment backed by the Idaho delegation to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture from restricting potatoes in school meals. The bill reduces overly burdensome and costly regulations and to provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Without these provisions, the cost of these programs would have increased by an additional $7 billion over the next five years--burdening states and local school districts.
* Agricultural Research -- The conference agreement provides more than $2.5 billion for
agricultural research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This funding supports research on critical agricultural issues, including emerging crop and livestock diseases, food safety and water quality, and maintains the nation's investment in land-grant and other agricultural colleges and universities bill includes funding for USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) that includes funding for potato breeding research.
* Animal and Plant Health -- The bill includes $820 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This funding level will continue support for programs to enhance control or eradication of plant and animal pest and diseases.
* Livestock Marketing -- H.R. 2112 places restrictions on the implementation of a Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) proposed rule that would have allowed harmful government interference in the private market for livestock and poultry. HR 2112 also lifted the existing ban on USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspection of horse meat.
Three Long-Awaited Trade Bills Finally Passed
Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea all signed into law
Congressman Mike Simpson voted for three trade agreements that will greatly increase U.S. exports to three key countries, providing a much needed boost to the U.S. economy. The House of Representatives approved the U.S.--South Korea Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, and the U.S.--Panama Trade Promotion Agreement on strongly bipartisan votes. All of these agreements were signed into law by President Obama in October.
"These long-awaited trade agreements are an important boon to our economy," said Congressman Simpson. "Inaction on trade agreements over the past few year years has left American exporters struggling to compete. These agreements help to level the playing field and play an important role in stimulating needed economic growth."
According to the American Farm Bureau, passage of the three trade agreements represents nearly $2.5 billion in new agricultural exports. Implementing the agreements will create new markets for U.S. products, reduce the trade deficit, increase exports for a variety of goods, and create an estimated tens of thousands of jobs across the country. The House also passed a three-year extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which provides compensation for those whose jobs have been eliminated because of trade. It greatly reduces the overall cost of the TAA program and eliminates it completely after 2014.
Simpson Works to Prevent EPA Regulation of Manure
Congressman Mike Simpson has lent his support to a measure to prevent livestock operations from becoming Superfund sites. H.R. 2997, introduced by Representative Billy Long (R-MO), would ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not impose regulations intended to clean up hazardous waste sites to livestock operations. Simpson chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding for the EPA and is an original cosponsor of H.R. 2997.
"In light of EPA's persistence in imposing its job-killing and unnecessary regulatory agenda on the American people, I believe it is important to clarify Congress's intent on this issue," Simpson said. "The Superfund law was never intended to regulate manure and other animal emissions as a toxic or hazardous substance. It defies common sense to presume that dairy and other producers who use manure as fertilizer should be regulated the same way as a chemical plant or mining operation."
The Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as the Superfund Law) was passed by Congress in 1980 to address the legacy of hazardous waste sites that pose a threat to the environment or human health. The law makes those involved in creating the Superfund site liable for cleaning it up. H.R. 2997 ensures that manure and other animal emissions cannot be regulated under CERCLA, preventing farmers from becoming liable for the cleanup of entire watersheds.
"It would be inappropriate, to say the least, to regulate manure under laws Congress intended for large-scale industrial waste," said Simpson. "Idaho's agriculture industry needs certainty in order to succeed, and this clarification ensures that producers can plan for the future without the risk of crushing and unreasonable liability hanging over their heads."