Policy Updates from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Farm Bill Debate Starts with 2011 Funding Bill - While most commentaries on the 2012 Farm Bill treat it, quite logically, as a coming attraction, in many key respects the battle is already joined.  Understanding why that is the case requires some insight into the strange world of congressional budgeting. The Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations bill that Congress and the Administration are trying to find common ground on before current funding expires next Friday will almost certainly reach beyond cuts to discretionary spending – the normal and proper purview of appropriations bills — and dip into mandatory funding too, even though mandatory spending is normally within the purview of authorizing committees. Read more... 154 Groups Deliver Letter Opposing "Riders" to Appropriations Bill - More than 150 national organizations, including NSAC, delivered a letter to both Senate and White House leadership on Friday, April 1, opposing the attachment of non-germane legislative amendments, or “riders,” to the fiscal year (FY) 2011 appropriations bill, which Congress is likely to vote on next week. The same letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as well as to the President and Vice President.   Read more... House Passes Bill to Limit EPA Authority While Senate Considers EPA Amendments - On Thursday, March 31, the House of Representatives passed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 (H.R. 872), a bill that would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from requiring entities to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System (NPDES) permit for the application of pesticides near navigable waters, so long as they are already registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The bill, offered by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and 137 cosponsors, was passed 292-130.  It was offered in response to a 2009 court case, National Cotton Council v. EPA, in which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements apply to farmers who are applying pesticides in or near waterways.   Read more... House Holds Appropriations Hearing on Rural Development - On Thursday morning, March 31, the House Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations held a hearing on Rural Development in Fiscal Year 2012.  The hearing started with general remarks from subcommittee members regarding concern about the state of rural America, including a note that USDA Secretary Vilsack previously testified to the Subcommittee that rural America has been in a depression for nearly ten years. In his opening testimony, Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager echoed this concern, explaining that “compared to their urban counterparts, rural Americans are more likely to be over the age of 65, earn lower average incomes, and are more likely to live in poverty.”  Read more...

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