Legislative info of interest

Shared on May 11th, 2018 by Dan Sebert, National Watershed Coalition: www.watershedcoalition.org

Today is the deadline for lawmakers to file amendments to the farm bill that’s expected to be on the House floor next week. But one of the most troublesome amendments to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway has already been filed. It would end some key provisions that underpin the program that supports domestic sugar prices.  Another amendment among the 32 that had been posted by yesterday evening would target the crop insurance program by cutting the insurance companies’ target rate of return from the current 14.5 percent to 12 percent, a proposal President Trump included in his budget.  Lobbyists for the industry are bracing for more amendments that would seek to cut crop insurance.  A third amendment would cap the cost of the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs. Total payments couldn’t exceed 10 percent of the projected cost.  One amendment that would appeal to farmers would repeal and replace the Obama-era “waters of the U.S.” rule re-defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The EPA is currently in the process of writing a new rule.

This week, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) sent a letter to the House Committee on Transportation asking them to reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program in the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2018. The National Dam Safety Program, which was reauthorized through Fiscal Year 2019 in the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, provides federal grant assistance to state dam safety agencies for training dam safety engineers, research, the creation of a National Inventory of Dams, a public awareness and outreach program and is authorized at $13.9 million per year from FY15 – FY19. Since its inception, it has it helped inventory nearly 90,000 dams across the country, assessing their condition and providing training and tools to state dam safety programs. Our nation’s 90,580 dams received a grade of “D” in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, and reauthorization of the National Dam Safety Program is a critical tool to raising its grade. Tell Congress to ensure this program is reauthorized in WRDA 2018 legislation.

This week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment held a hearing to review President Trump’s FY2019 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The hearing’s witness, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke, defended the Administration’s proposed $2.4 billion cut to the agency’s budget and fielded questions on the agency’s proposed reorganization, how best to address the agency’s nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, the agency’s new five-year plan to open up more than 90 percent of federal waters to offshore drilling, and the Administration’s recommendation to cut the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Before the hearing began, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks sent a letter to the Secretary urging him to support permanent reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund.