The 112th Congress will be a busy one for the House Agriculture Committee based on the plan it has laid out for the year ahead. Besides oversight action on implementation of the 2008 farm bill, the panel will take a close look at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the impact its regulatory actions have on U.S. agriculture.
The committee plans to "review programs that may be inefficient, duplicative, outdated or more appropriately administered by state and local governments." That in itself could keep it busy for some time. Here are some of the additional areas the panel will be looking at (a full listing can be found at http://agriculture.house.gov).
2008 FARM BILL
How USDA has gone about implementing the 2008 farm bill (formally known as the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008) is at the top of the panel’s agenda, including:
- the current health of the U.S. farm economy;
- credit availability in rural areas;
- the impact of weather conditions on crop production;
- the impact of USDA crop reports and projections on markets;
- payment limits and adjusted gross income provisions;
- an audit of all farm programs under the panel’s jurisdiction; and
- a review of discretionary actions that are not authorized by legislation.
The panel also plans to assess energy programs authorized in the 2008 farm bill: research into renewable energy feedstocks; the availability of feedstocks for renewable energy production;
implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard; and the impact of renewable fuels programs on agriculture.
CONSERVATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and other EPA officials will be spending quite a bit of time before Congress this year. Some lawmakers have joked that she will need her own parking spot on the Hill. The panel will focus on EPA jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA); the impact of the Clean Air Act (CAA); implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act; the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); and the Pesticide Registration Improvement Renewal Act. EPA actions on pesticide evaluations and its regulation of animal feeding operations will be another focus. The panel also plans to examine the impact of litigation and rulemaking under the Endangered Species Act, CWA, CAA and FIFRA.
The regulatory footprint of EPA will be the prime focus, as evidenced by this comment from House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.): "From the dairies in Vermont to the wheat fields near the Chesapeake Bay to the corn farms in the Midwest, American agriculture is under a constant barrage of irrational and unworkable regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, which are burdensome, overreaching, and that negatively affect jobs and
A full plate for ag. Other areas slated for attention include federal crop insurance and risk management; implementation of the financial regulatory reform package (specifically
Title VI of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act); biotechnology; international trade and food aid; ag research and promotion efforts; the dairy industry; the U.S. Forest Service; food and nutrition programs; livestock marketing; animal and plant health and food safety.
The hearings will no doubt contribute to the panel’s next major task: writing the 2012 farm bill.