Policy Journal

September 9, 2010 04:40 AM

The summer congressional recess comes to an end in mid-September, and there’s a host of issues brewing in Washington as the final stretch of 2010 unfolds.

Biofuels: The biodiesel tax credit that lapsed at the end of 2009 has not been restored. As lawmakers return from summer break, efforts on this front will continue, but the legislative route is undetermined.

Lawmakers will also be devising a game plan for the ethanol production incentive that expires at the end of 2010. The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to work on a “green jobs” bill, which will likely contain an extension of the incentive, but at a lower level. Recall that this incentive was already reduced in the 2008 farm bill. The challenge will be finding a way to pay for the tax credit under the pay-as-you-go budget rules that are once again in effect.

Also in biofuels news, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced a bill in early August that would allow states to opt out of the Renewable Fuels Standard requirements relative to corn-based ethanol. But his plan will face stiff opposition from ethanol backers.

Disaster aid: The $1.5 billion in aid for 2009 crop losses will likely come from Section 32 funds. The aid will constitute an extra direct payment to eligible producers with losses greater than 5%.

Food safety: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has released a compromise food safety plan. The plan no longer bans the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic containers. The bill would increase Food and Drug Administration inspections of processors and gives the agency the authority to demand the recall of tainted products. The language provides training to help facilities comply with new regulations and includes “special accommodations for small businesses and farms.” The question is, will there be time for the Senate to approve the bill and for the two chambers to iron out differences with the House?

Elections: The November elections will hijack the Washington agenda for the remainder of the year. Lawmakers are raring to leave Washington and will hit the campaign trail by mid-October.

Lame-duck session: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has already warned lawmakers that a post-election session is coming—the week of Nov. 15, followed by a Thanksgiving break, and then back to work Nov. 29—with adjournment to be determined.

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