Senate Takes Up Spending Bill Next Week

Ethanol and many other amendments which will impact the ag industry were approved in the House budget bill.

In the wee hours of the morning on Feb. 19, the House approved H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year 2011. Last December, the 111th Congress passed a CR to fund the federal government at FY-2010 levels through March 4, 2011. New legislation to fund the federal government in FY-2011 needs to be passed before work on the 2012 budget can begin. 

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to consider the Continuing Resolution next week. Reports this week indicate House Republicans plan to pass a two-week stopgap spending bill next week to keep the government running past March 4 at reduced levels. The House bill includes a total of $61 billion in cuts, which is not expected to achieve approval from the Senate or White House.

Heading into the debate, agriculture organizations were concerned about the proposed cuts which targeted agriculture more than double the amount to be cut in overall non-defense discretionary spending.

H.R. 1 would cut $5.21 billion, or 22.4%, from agriculture-related programs and operating budgets during the remaining seven months of FY-2011. This is more than double the 10.3% cut proposed in overall non-defense discretionary spending.

Ethanol amendments

The House passed an amendment from Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that prohibits funds from being used to construct ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities. Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) was successful in gaining passage of an amendment that blocks funds for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement a waiver to increase the ethanol content in gasoline from 10% to 15%.

The National Chicken Council was quick to praise the House action on the two ethanol amendments. In a statement issued Saturday, following final passage of the House bill, NCC president George Watts said, “This country needs neither E15 nor taxpayer-subsidized ethanol facilities. We urge the Senate to take similar action.” NCC was among a coalition of animal agriculture and food organizations that have experienced rising costs as a result of increased demand for corn from ethanol.

“The Sullivan provision picks politics over science. EPA’s consideration of E15 was based on a more exhaustive study and collection of data than any of the 11 previously-approved petitions. No other fuel mix has been tested more,” said Tom Buis, chief executive officer of Growth Energy, which filed the Green Jobs Waiver for E15 in March 2009. He cited the current turmoil in the Middle East as a reason the U.S. should develop homegrown fuel.

Today (Feb. 25), Growth Energy, the American Coalition for Ethanol, American Farm Bureau Federation, Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union and National Sorghum Producers, sent a letter to all 100 U.S. Senators urging them to defeat any efforts that would damage the American ethanol industry’s growth.

In the letter, they wrote, “American ethanol is uniquely positioned to help America achieve energy independence. Domestic ethanol production has been and is currently a major force in the revitalization of rural America by helping to create green jobs and by stimulating economic activity in rural communities.” 

Other amendments

The House version also defunded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate dust and implement its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) rule for the Chesapeake Bay and its nutrient criteria rule for Florida.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president of government affairs Colin Woodall welcomed the amendments thanking the bill sponsors for "leading the charge against overregulation and in support of economic growth in rural America and throughout the country."

In other action…

Other amendments of interest to the agricultural industry include:

  • An amendment from Rep. Hall (R-Texas) prohibiting funds to implement a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Service, part of the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget request.
  • An amendment from Reps. Poe (R-Texas), Barton (R-Texas) and Carter (R-Texas) that defines specifically what greenhouse gases are and prohibits the EPA from imposing regulations on those gases emitted by a stationary source for seven months.
  • An amendment from Rep. Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) that prohibits the use of funds for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • An amendment from Rep. Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) that prohibits funds for the study of the Missouri River projects.
  • An amendment from Rep. Matheson (D-Utah) that prohibits the use of funds for the Community Connect broadband grant program administered by the Rural Utilities Service of the Department of Agriculture.
  • An amendment from Rep. Lummis (R-Wyom.) to put a moratorium, for the duration of the CR, on the payment of legal fees to citizens and groups who sue the government, in order to study abuses in the system.
  • An amendment from Rep. McClintock (R-Calif.) that prohibits funds from being used to implement the Klamath (California) Dam Removal and Sedimentation Study, conducted by the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • An amendment by Rep. Herger (R-Calif.) that prohibits the use of funds to implement or enforce the Travel Management Rule, which would close roads and trails on National Forest System land.
  • An amendment by Rep. Burton (R-Ind.) to eliminate $2 million in funding from the Bureau of Land Management for holding pens created for wild horses and burros.
  • An amendment by Rep. Weiner (D-N.Y.) that prohibits the use of funds to provide nonrecourse marketing assistance loans to mohair farmers.
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