Congressional delegation makes Farm Bill predictions
With the August recess in full swing and Congress in session for only eight days in September, Wyoming’s congressional delegation has mixed opinions on whether or not we will see a new five-year Farm Bill passed in 2012.
With the Wyoming delegation spending their August recess visiting the state, all three members attended the Wyoming State Fair and various events associated with the celebration to let constituents know the status of things in Washington, D.C.
In the House
Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis spoke to producers at the Cattlemen’s Conference on Aug. 15, sponsored by the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and Farm Credit Services of America, and said, “The House has passed a Farm Bill out of the House Ag Committee, but not through the whole House.”
“There is still too much spending to satisfy the more conservative people in the House Republican conference,” she continued. “Instead, we passed a livestock drought disaster funding bill that is retroactive, so it counts for this year.”
In the last Farm Bill, Lummis explained that all provisions were funded for five years, with the exception of livestock programs, which were only funded for four.
“They expired last September,” Lummis explained. “That is why the House passed a one year extension of the livestock drought programs.”
Lummis noted the programs include livestock predation and other livestock provisions.
“The problem is, so many bills pass the House and won’t pass the Senate or vice versa – we are in that situation again,” she said. “I think there is one thing that will happen for sure and one thing that might happen.”
“What will happen for sure is we will have a six month continuing resolution to extend the current appropriations bills from Sept. 30 until the end of March next year,” Lummis commented. “That will give whoever is president the opportunity to put together a budget after the beginning of their new term. That is all to avoid the fiscal cliff that is coming at the end of the year.”
“What might happen is passage of a Farm Bill,” she added. “Only these major pieces of legislation will happen before the election because politicians are too touchy about preserving the status quo and seeing how the election will pan out.”
From the Senate
From the Senate, Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi expects passage of a Farm Bill this year.
“The House wants to pass a one year drought extension and also a one year extension on the Farm Bill,” explained Enzi. “The Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee Debbie Stabenow says it is not going to be a one year extension – it has to get resolved.”
Enzi continued that the result is producers being left up in the air about drought provisions and other essential funds that originate in the Farm Bill. He also marked livestock predation and livestock forage as being important targets in the Senate version of the Farm Bill.
“We need the provisions updated for 2012,” he said. “It will be done retroactively.”
However, Enzi noted that there are two primary pieces holding up the legislation – nutrition and subsidies for high-cost crops, such as rice and cotton.
“The limitations on what they can get for high cost crops puts them out of business, or at least definitely hurts,” he said, mentioning that both houses are hoping some of the details will be pre-conferenced during the August recess.
Looking into September, Enzi said, “Debbie Stabenow said they would not pass a one year extension. She is trying to get them to take the Senate version.”
A Farm Bill, if passed this year, will also likely include deeper cuts to nutrition programs to satisfy House members.
“I really think they will get the differences worked out, and we will get it passed,” Enzi commented. “We need to do it before Sept. 30.”
“Agriculture is very bipartisan, so they usually get it worked out,” he added. “I’m optimistic on the Farm Bill.”
Aside from the Farm Bill, there is also concern in Washington, D.C. about tax rates and increases that will occur after the Bush tax cuts expire on Jan. 1.
“At the end of the calendar year, marginal tax rates will go up, estates taxes will go up, the alternative minimum tax will expire and all of the Bush tax cuts expire,” Lummis said.
Enzi added, “There are some tax extenders and tax relief that has to be put in place. I would hope it happens before the election, but at least before the end of the year.”
With estate tax of particular interest, Lummis commented, “At the end of the year, estate taxes will go back to 55 percent and a $1 million exemption. The stepped-up basis will go away – that is the great advantage to our current estate tax.”
Lummis remarked that they are working hard to extend the estate tax, hopefully in perpetuity, adding, “I would like to have no estate tax at all, but it just isn’t going to happen.”
Because Democrats hold onto the estate tax and have hotly debated the topic, both Lummis and Enzi feel that the current level is going to be “the best we can get.”
Enzi predicted that one of the first major areas of debate in the new year will revolve around tax reform, including transitioning incentives.
“If they eliminate some of the subsidies, as they talked about in Simpson-Bowles, I have talked about the need to transition those,” Enzi explained. “If some of the incentives are taken out overnight, there isn’t enough cash in America to pay the taxes on them.”
Enzi has also written international tax legislation that attempts to solve problems with international corporate tax rates, which he says disadvantage the U.S.
As the Wyoming Congressional delegation continues it’s journey across the state, visiting constituents and explaining the situation in Washington, D.C., watch for their return to Capitol Hill in September.
The U.S. Congress is scheduled to reconvene on Sept. 10. Visit senate.gov or house.gov for more information on current floor schedules. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congressional Review and EPA
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi said, “The EPA is trying to shut down coal and any kind of energy except wind and solar,” in a recent interview at the Roundup.
Enzi, Wyoming’s senior senator, added, “I guess they have no concept of how much wind and solar energy it would take to power this country.”
While natural gas used to be the “clean” solution to energy, Enzi said, “They are against all fossil fuels, because fossil fuels have carbon in them.”
In attempting to end coal production and use, Enzi noted that there are $4 billion in loan guarantees for clean coal, which would provide a subsidy to producers if prices fall bellows levels that would support plan operation.
“There were $80 billion in subsidies for wind and solar – a lot of which has been given out, but not one dime of the $4 billion in loan guarantees for coal has been given out,” he said.
Enzi also noted that, while there are natural gas generators going up across the country, “There are going to have to be a lot of them to replace the goal generators going out of business.”
With EPA regulations increasing the cost of operation or making operation impossible for coal generators, Enzi added that Congress is working to try to overturn EPA decisions and regulations.
“EPA is doing some really strange things. We’ve tried to reverse some EPA decisions,” Enzi explained. “In the reversal process, even if we passed a bill in the Senate and the House, the President has to sign it, and I don’t think he’ll do that.”
In order to streamline the process, Enzi has been working to reform the Congressional Review Act.
“The Congressional Review Act is how we would eliminate regulations that we say were not done the way they should have been done,” he explained. “The Act should have been written so the if the House and the Senate repealed a regulation, it was gone.”
Enzi noted that in its current sate, the Congressional Review Act has only been used successfully once.
“I’m going to be working on reforms to the Congressional Review Act,” he added. “I think both sides will see the need to reform it, because both sides will run into this situation at some point.”