Legislative Issues: Jobs Bill- Tax Credit, Ag Disaster Aid
Reuters news reported yesterday that, “Revival of the $1 a gallon biodiesel tax credit would be part of a jobs and tax bill in the U.S. Senate, according to a draft that circulated on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
“According to the draft, the $1 a gallon biodiesel tax credit, which expired at the end of 2009, would be extended through 2010.”
Yesterday’s article indicated that, “The draft also included a $1.5 billion in disaster aid for farmers and would allow a five-year depreciation schedule for agricultural equipment.
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Wednesday that he was preparing a package of jobless benefits, state aid and tax breaks that the Senate could take up next week.”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Congressmen questioned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on a broad array of budget proposals Wednesday as USDA officials appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture to make their case about budget priorities for the next fiscal year.
“Vilsack explained USDA’s proposed budget, which could boost spending on child nutrition programs by $1 billion a year while effectively freezing the department’s discretionary spending, which accounts for about $21 billion a year. With a boost in mandatory spending tied to nutrition programs, the Obama administration actually proposes increasing USDA’s overall budget by $10.3 billion in fiscal 2011 to $129.6 billion.”
Jim Snyder reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Senate Republicans on Tuesday seized on errors in a United Nations climate change report and the recent ‘Climategate’ e-mail controversy to press the administration to drop its push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
“Democrats, meanwhile, countered that the overwhelming evidence suggested human activity was causing global warming and compared climate change skeptics to people in the 1930s who refused to believe Nazism was a threat.” (Note: To listen to an audio clip from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who made the 1930s reference, just click here (MP3-1:38)).
“The debate, which took place at a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing that was scheduled to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 budget, will likely do little to build consensus around climate change legislation or an effort at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate heat-trapping gases.”
Climate Issues- EPA Regulation: Executive and Legislative Branch Dialogue in Letters
Recall that on Friday, Washington Post writer Juliet Eilperin reported at the Post Carbon Blog that, “Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and several other coal-state Democrats sent a bluntly worded letter to Environment Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson Friday night challenging the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants and other industrial sources.
“The Rockefeller letter–which was also signed by Democratic senators Mark Begich (Alaska), Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Pat Casey (Pa.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Carl Levin (Mich.), and Max Baucus (Mont.)–poses a serious challenge for the Obama administration. While the administration is still pushing for Congress to pass a climate bill this year, it has not ruled out controlling greenhouse gases through regulation.
“In their letter, the Democratic senators do not object to the EPA regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light-trucks, but they do question the agency’s power to do anything else under the Clean Air Act. The letter asks Jackson clarify the EPA’s timetable and suspend any regulations for coal-fired utilities and other industrial facilities until Congress acts on climate and energy legislation.”
Angie Pointer reported on Saturday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The gradual economic recovery is strengthening the 2010 outlook for U.S. agriculture.
“Commodities from corn to beef spent much of last year trying to recover from the commodity-price collapse that accompanied the global credit crisis. The expectation for the agricultural sector’s continued slow and steady recovery was evident in crop and trade forecasts issued this week by the U.S. Agriculture Department at its annual Outlook Forum.
“Earlier in the month, the USDA estimated farm income to rise nearly 12% to $63 billion in 2010. On Friday, the USDA forecast a 9% increase in U.S. beef exports to 2.04 billion pounds this year. Pork exports are also projected to rise 9%, to 4.5 billion pounds, USDA livestock analyst Joel Greene wrote in an outlook report also released Friday.”
And with respect to crop prospects for 2010, Dr. Glauber stated that, “Less land is expected to be planted to the major field crops in 2010 as prices continue to ease from their record levels in 2008…Total planted area for the 8 major crops (wheat, corn, barley, oats, sorghum, soybeans, upland cotton, and rice) is expected to decline to 247.3 million acres, down 1.6 million from 2009. The 8-crop total is down 5.7 million acres from the recent high in 2008 as the net returns outlook is much less favorable than 2 years ago when prices were at or near record highs” [related graph from presentation].
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Potential cuts to the crop insurance industry would be about 20 percent less than originally proposed, but agent commissions would be capped under a new draft of the standard reinsurance agreement between USDA and the crop insurance industry, USDA officials said Wednesday.” [Note: For more background on the standard reinsurance agreement, click here and here.]
“Though USDA had originally declined to detail the savings in the first proposal, the White House’s proposed budget detailed $8 billion in crop insurance savings over 10 years. Officials said Thursday the actual projection was closer to $8.4 billion. The proposed changes would still cut costs for crop insurance by about $6.7 billion over 10 years, based on percentages and numbers offered by USDA officials.
“‘I think the companies overall would be satisfied with the direction of the movement,’ said Bill Murphy, administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency.”
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson said Monday he believes the next Congress may have to take up a reconciliation bill that could include a rewrite of the farm program.
“Speaking by telephone to the American Association of Crop Insurers convention here [San Diego], Peterson said he is not an advocate of a reconciliation bill but believes that international concerns about U.S. finances and difficulties in selling U.S. bonds overseas may force the next Congress to consider a reconciliation bill.”
The AP reported yesterday that, “Last week, India halted the commercial release of the world’s first genetically engineered eggplant, called Bt brinjal. The environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, said that given the lack of consensus within the scientific community and the pitch of public opposition, further study was needed to guarantee consumer safety.
“Why the skepticism over a technology many scientists say is crucial for feeding the 9 billion people who will populate the planet by 2050?
“To many in India, embracing Bt brinjal — which has a gene owned by Monsanto Co — also means embracing corporate farming and surrendering some control of the nation’s food supply to a powerful foreign company. They worry this could have disastrous consequences for the nation’s 100 million small farming families.”
Damon Darlin reported in yesterday’s New York Times that, “Industrial food production is not very fashionable right now.
“Three books by Michael Pollan criticizing the system of giant corporate farms and food factories have topped the best-seller lists. A graphic documentary, ‘Food, Inc.,’ based in part on his books, has been nominated for an Academy Award.
“In Washington, Michelle Obama grew vegetables on the White House lawn as an example of self-sufficiency. And across America, more farmers’ markets and restaurants have popped up that sell vegetables and meat produced on small farms.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) updated its 2010 Farm Sector Income Forecast yesterday, and noted in part that, “Net farm income is forecast to be $63 billion in 2010, up $6.7 billion (11.8 percent) from 2009. The 2010 forecast is $1.4 billion below the average of $64.5 billion in net farm income earned in the previous 10 years. Still, the $63 billion forecast for 2010 remains the fifth largest amount of income earned in U.S. farming. The top five earnings years have occurred since 2003, attesting to the profitability of farming this decade. Farm income exceeded $80 billion in 2004 and 2008 and topped $70 billion in 2005 and 2007 [see related graph].”
Alexander Bolton reported yesterday at The Hill’s Energy and Environment Blog that, “Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) says those who think climate change legislation is dead for the year are ‘dead wrong.’
“Those who think blizzards and record snow falls in Washington will make it tough to move a global warming bill are guilty of ‘inside the beltway’ thinking, Kerry said.
“‘The inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom that this issue has stalled is dead wrong,’ Kerry said in a statement e-mailed to The Hill. ‘This is not and never has been a partisan issue, and Senators Graham, Lieberman, and I will continue building consensus on both sides of the aisle with all those willing to engage to create jobs, advance our security interests, reduce pollution, and make America more competitive,’ said Kerry, a key advocate of a climate change legislation.”
Jeanne Cummings reported yesterday at Politico that, “Defying conventional wisdom that a hardened partisan divide and looming midterm elections will prevent the type of compromises necessary for big reforms, business leaders and environmentalists are redoubling their efforts to advance an energy and climate bill in the Senate.
“It’s a seemingly improbable goal, but upending that way of thinking is one of the objectives of a Capitol Hill lobbying blitz launched last week by executives from nearly 200 large and small companies. A dozen CEOs — including Shell Oil’s Marvin Odum, Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers and NRG Energy’s David Crane — are scheduled to meet with lawmakers and administration officials Tuesday.”
Lisa Lerer and Manu Raju reported on Friday at Politico that, “Democrats are racing to hash out the details of a jobs bill by a self-imposed Monday deadline — and working overtime to gain the Republican votes they’ll need to pass it.
“Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Max Baucus spent Thursday in a flurry of delicate negotiations with Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch , with aides going back and forth on the details of a tax-focused jobs bill.
“The bill has shifted from a sweeping piece of legislation to a smaller, bipartisan bill — loaded up with tax cuts to gain Republican support,” the Politico article said.
Lori Montgomery reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Congress agreed Thursday to revive the pay-as-you-go budget rules that helped wipe out massive deficits and balance the budget during the Clinton administration, although the new version includes a long list of exceptions that would permit Democrats to add at least $1.5 trillion to the nation’s tab over the next decade.
“The House voted 233 to 187 to approve the rules, known in congressional shorthand as paygo. The rules were adopted last month by the Senate and now go to President Obama for his signature.
“The return to paygo comes as record deficits push the government more deeply into debt than at any time since the 1950s. Democrats attached the new rules to a must-pass measure that raises the legal limit on government borrowing by a record $1.9 trillion. With the public debt expected to hit the current cap by next week, the increase — which was approved on a separate vote, 217 to 212 — authorizes the Treasury Department to continue borrowing to cover the nation’s bills through early next year.”