Ag Disaster Aid Vote Problem | Ethanol Mandate Under Focus | Biodiesel Tax Incentive

August 2, 2012 01:21 AM

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Updates on lingering issues

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The following are updates on three issues currently being debated in Washington, D.C.:

Some Farm Groups Oppose House Ag Disaster Aid Details; House GOP alters legislative strategy. Nothing is easy it seems when it comes to agriculture-related legislation. The latest is House GOP leadership efforts for a stand-alone agriculture disaster aid bill that is garnering trouble getting enough votes.

GOP House leaders make a change. Late Wednesday evening, the House Rules Committee announced it would pull the bill from the suspension calendar, a sign leaders did not have the two-thirds vote necessary to approve the measure that way.

The House Rules panel approved a closed rule for the bill. It provides for one hour of debate, and no amendments will be allowed. The new rule allows for simple majority passage. Democrats will be permitted to move to recommit the measure.


Budget offset. Rules member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) suggested that rather than using conservation programs to cover the cost of the bill that instead the budget offset should come from direct payments. But House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said that direct payments couldn't be used to pay for the aid since the farm bill is not being extended. The House GOP pulled a one-year extension bill on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who met with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Capitol on Wednesday, has said he will consider a stand-alone drought relief package only if it is exactly like the provisions included in the bipartisan farm bill the Senate approved in June.

But the House proposal only addresses livestock disaster and tree assistance programs. The Senate’s five-year extension — supported by 16 GOP Senators — is broader and includes measures to help fruit growers affected by frost and freezes, major changes to crop insurance and permanent funding for livestock disaster programs.

Several farm groups released a joint statement Wednesday against the bill, while expressing support for both emergency aid to farmers and a long-term bill.

Lawmakers urge EPA to lower ethanol target; dueling press events today. Amid a lingering and widespread US drought, a bipartisan group of 135 lawmakers signed a letter Wednesday asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adjust a rule that requires corn ethanol production via the Renewable Fuels Mandate (RFS). Both proponents and opponents of the ethanol mandate are holding press events today.

The lawmakers want EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to temporarily reduce the amount of corn ethanol that gets blended into gasoline under the RFS. They say meeting this year’s target of 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol production will tighten corn supplies for livestock producers, given the widespread drought that has devastated farm production.

Legislation previously introduced. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) are leading the effort. They will send the letter today and hold a morning press conference to discuss the matter. Goodlatte has sponsored a bill with Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) that would let the EPA reduce the ethanol targets by as much as 50 percent when corn supplies run low. Costa has said that the bill could offer relief for ranchers and farmers while the House decides how to approach a farm spending bill. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has sponsored a similar bill in the Senate.

Corn ethanol proponents contend the ethanol mandate contains plenty of flexibility that will buffer some of the hard decisions ranchers face. They say about 2.5 billion gallons worth of renewable identification numbers (RINs), which are credits for renewable fuel productions, can be used this year and next against the RFS quota.

Biodiesel tax incentive extension part of Senate tax extenders bill; Senate Finance shoots for markup, but hurdles surface in Senate, and with House. The Senate Finance Committee may markup legislation that would continue dozens of expired and soon-to-expire tax breaks known as extenders, as well as a one-year fix to the alternative minimum tax to prevent it from hitting more middle-income earners, and a retroactive reinstatement of the biodiesel tax incentive.

The proposal would extend the income tax credit, excise tax credit and payment provisions for biodiesel and renewable diesel for two years (through December 31, 2013). The proposal is effective for sales and uses after December 31, 2011.

Tentative agreement. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking Republican Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced Wednesday that they had reached a tentative agreement on the package of tax provisions.

Hurdles ahead. While Baucus wants to have a markup as early as today, some senators have raised hurdles over concerns that they had not been given enough time to offer amendments. A delay would either mean the markup is pushed to Friday or until after the August recess.

What's next? To mark up and clear the extenders package today, the committee would have to waive a rule requiring 48 hours of notice before such sessions are held. If the 48-hour rule is not waived, Finance could still hold a markup on Friday, but senators are eager to depart for their month-long summer recess.

House delay. Even if the Senate clears an extenders bill in September, the measure would face a murky fate in the House. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said his panel had no intention even of introducing a House version until after the November elections. He also has said that an extenders package should not add to the budget deficit.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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