Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers activities impacting federal policy in the areas of conservation, energy, environment, animal welfare, and natural resources. For education policy issues, please visit my new blog Fed Ed Policy.
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The Farm Bill. Today, Wednesday, January 29, 2014, the House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) and the Senate is expected to vote and pass the bill very soon. Although the bill passed by a significant majority in the House, many Members and outside groups remained critical of bill for a variety of reasons, including the cuts to nutrition programs, weak restrictions on payments and the continuance of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).
Despite cutbacks to some programs, the conservation programs (when you consider the inclusion of certain strong conservation provisions) did better than anticipated. Below are some of the major Conservation, Forestry, & Energy Provisions in the Farm Bill (see Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog for more details):
- Relinks conservation requirements to the receipt of crop insurance premium subsidies (i.e. conservation compliance).
- Limits crop production subsidies on most newly-farmed native grassland (i.e. Sodsaver).
- Slashes 10-year conservation funding by $4 billion (in addition to the $2.1 billion cuts from sequestration).
- Reduces acreage for the Conservation Reserve Program by 8 million acres (from 32 million to 24 million) by 2017.
- Consolidates land conservation “retirement” programs into one program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and authorizes permanent funding (a good thing for the environment, wildlife, and farmers and ranchers).
- Caps (to 10 million new acres each year) and reduces acreage (by 2.8 million acres each year) for the innovative and productive Conservation Stewardship Program, greatly reducing conservation on working lands.
- Reduces funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, but makes funding for large confined livestock operations more accessible and at a larger amount.
- Includes new funds for money for renewable energy programs ($879 million) in new, which includes $435 million for the Rural Energy for America Program.
- Includes the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act, supported by loggers, which will prevent litigation (by environmental groups) that want forestry operations to obtain water discharge permit for forestry roads.
Congressional Hearings, Mark-Ups, & Business Meetings:
Senate Energy Committee:
- Business Meeting– Nominations: Ms. Rhea S. Suh, to be Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Department of the Interior, and Ms. Janice M. Schneider, to be Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Department of the Interior, February 4, 2014.
- Hearing– Forestry Legislation, February 6, 2014.
Senate EPW Committee:
- Hearing: Examination of the Safety and Security of Drinking Water Supplies Following the Central West Virginia Drinking Water Crisis, February 4, 2014.
House Natural Resources Committee:
- Hearing: Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, February 4, 2014.
- Hearing: Water-related Legislation, February 5, 2014.
- Hearing: BLM & Energy Production, February 5, 2014.
House Science Committee:
- Hearing: Commercial Space Launch, February 4, 2014.
- Hearing: EPA & Science, February 5, 2014.
IN THE KNOW: EVENTS TO CONSIDER
Upcoming Events (listed by date):
- Brookings: The Future of Electric Utilities, February 4, 2014
- ITIF: ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, February 24, 2014