There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s combined.1 The filibuster rule, Senate Rule XXII, was designed to defend minority rights or inspire debate of issues, but instead the minority party uses it to require a 60-vote supermajority to block legislative initiatives from getting accomplished in the United States Senate. Read more
- http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-07/could-this-be-end-of-evil-filibuster-.html [↩]
Going into the 2012 general election there was much fanfare about the U.S. electorate being upset with partisan bickering and wanting more accomplished by the lawmakers they send to Washington, DC. Presidential, Senate, and House candidates throughout the country spent months harshly campaigning and over $6 billion1 . The result – the President was re-elected without a clear policy mandate and Congress remains divided, suggesting partisan gridlock will continue. Read more
- Center for Responsive Politics [↩]
As we have been discussing for months, the push for deficit reduction is creating more of an immediacy to adopting a Farm Bill sooner rather than later. And, with the deadline for policy recommendations from authorizing Committees to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSCDR) now under two weeks away, farm policy proposals are beginning to surface. The JSCDR must generate at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over 10 years this fall.
Between $10 and $50 billion of budget savings are targeted from the Farm Bill. Read more
During the President’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress on September 8, he said, “Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight is the kind that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past.” Typically, the opposition party would be totally dismissive of such remarks, but with the U.S. economy on the ropes and a U.S. electorate demanding action to remedy it, that’s why many congressional Republicans cannot totally dismiss the remarks of the President. Read more
Recently, the Obama Administration announced that U.S. and Mexican negotiators finalized a program that will allow Mexican trucks carrying imported goods to travel throughout the U.S. to their destinations, a promise made by the U.S. eighteen years ago and codified in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The accord was reached 2 years and 3 months after Mexico, legally under NAFTA, applied tariffs of between 10 and 45 percent on 89 U.S. products totaling $2.4 billion. Read more
60 million Americans are living in rural communities throughout the U.S. and according to Cornell University, since the 1960s, the rural population has aged more rapidly than its urban counterpart. Hospitals serving rural populations have also been aging. In fact, rural hospitals average over 50 years of age and these facilities have already out-lived their lifespan and are unable to meet the demands of modern medicine and technology.
Time to Change the Tax Code to Encourage Investment in Antiquated Rural Hospitals
Rural healthcare organizations are challenged to meet the minimum financial requirements of Local, State, or Federal assistance programs to replace aging facilities due to current debt levels and capital needed to fund their development. Additionally, programs providing for the start-up and operational funding needed to stabilize a new facility, once built, are limited by the the already over stressed, local taxing districts. It is estimated that over 14% of rural hospitals throughout the U.S. have been lost over the past ten years and at the current pace that figure will be progressively exceeded. Simply waiting for better economic times is not an option. Read more
With a deadline just days away, congressional leaders and The White House STILL cannot reach an agreement on how to move forward on reducing U.S. debt. All when the U.S. global credit rating is at stake amidst a capricious economy and the Treasury Secretary and leading Economists warning of the catastrophic nature of the U.S. default on its $14.3 trillion debt. The stalemate is due to lawmakers inability to make long-term decisions for the country, over old, ideological positions among political parties. Republicans are refusing to raise revenues (taxes) and Democrats are refusing to make policy changes to programs like Social Security and Medicare. Read more
A Farm Policy Battle continues to wage in the U.S. House of Representatives this week showcasing the escalating issue over how Congress must change current U.S. agricultural programs in the 2012 Farm Bill ruled as “trade distorting” by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“Do NOT Pay the $147 Million…”
Passed By Voice Vote
During the U.S. House Appropriations (full) Committee hearing on May 31, Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ), (a member of the Tea Party Caucus that promotes fiscal responsibility) offered an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill that reduces direct payments to U.S. cotton producers by $147 million, the amount equal to the Framework Agreement with Brazil. Congressman Flake’s amendment was adopted by a voice vote of the Appropriations Committee members. Read more
In mid-April the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a budget resolution (235-193) for fiscal year 2012. It estimated that the 2012 Budget proposes $178 billion in agriculture program cuts over the next 10 years. While the Budget Committee made it known that the Agriculture Committee will choose what programs to cut, they did suggest:
- $127 billion in cuts to the food stamp programs,
- about $30 billion in cuts to commodity programs,
- about $20 billion in cuts to other programs, and
- specifically mention conservation programs.
In the U.S. Senate, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) has unveiled a tentative draft that would cut the federal deficit by about $4 trillion over a decade.
Conrad’s draft proposal raises taxes by about $2 trillion and cuts spending by $1.5 trillion. Additional savings of about $600 billion would come from reduced interest payments. Savings of about $900 billion are achieved from defense programs and $300 billion in savings are proposed from non-security spending over a decade. It would also secure about $300 billion in entitlement savings over the decade.
Impacting future budget negotiations (and the writing of the 2012 Farm Bill) is a report released last month by the Government Accounting Office (GAO). Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) requested the report which researched the federal budget for opportunities to reduce potential duplication and streamline government programs, save tax dollars, and enhance revenue. Read more
As we mentioned in an earlier article, the cotton case against the U.S. won by Brazil in the World Trade Organization maintains a caveat that allows the Brazilian government to retaliate against the U.S. and includes increasing tariffs on multiple U.S. products and as a last resort, restricting U.S. intellectual property (IP) rights (patents & copyrights).
Specifically, Brazil initiated and won a dispute over the current marketing assistance loan (MAL), counter cyclical payment (CCP), and export credit guarantee programs. Under a Framework Agreement reached in June 2010, Brazil agreed not to proceed with retaliatory measures; the U.S. agreed to annual payments of $147.3 million to the Brazilian cotton industry and quarterly discussions on potential limits of trade-distorting U.S. farm subsidies. Read more
U.S. House leaders are directing committees to identify regulations & procedures that impede economic growth. The U.S. House recently adopted House Resolution 72 by an overwhelmingly bi-partisan vote of 391 – 28 that directs the following congressional committees to “inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations and orders from agencies of the Federal Government, particularly with respect to their effect on jobs and economic growth” that affect… Read more
While incoming Chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, Oklahoma’s Frank Lucas, agreed with Vilsack’s tenor on producers being able to choose their individual cropping system, Lucas stated that the Plant Protection Act, which grants USDA authority to regulate biotech crops, is a pure science statute and that decisions should remain based on sound science. Moreover, Lucas pressed USDA on their recent consideration of the possible coexistence of herbicide-tolerant biotech alfalfa co-existing with non-biotech fields is “a political objective and is outside the scope of (USDA’s) legal authority.” Read more
The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture held its first hearing of the new 112th Congress on Thursday and continued its tradition of tackling difficult issues by addressing the complex issues plaguing biotechnology and USDA-APHIS’ role in regulating it.
Biotechnology in agriculture has been rapidly adopted by farmers throughout the world as the industry addresses how to feed a growing world population with limited resources. In fact the 2009 report, The Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops continues to show that global adoption of agricultural biotechnology continues to increase with a record 14 million farmers in 25 countries around the world planting biotech crops on 330 million acres last year, up from 13.3 million farmers and 308 million acres in 2008. The U.S. accounted for 158 million acres of the total, or 48% of the world’s biotech crop plantings. Read more