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W E E K L Y  U P D A T E  October 29, 2018
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WRDA Signed into Law

Last Tuesday, President Trump signed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), also known as America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, into law.   WRDA authorizes numerous US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) projects and other important water programs. Key provisions of the legislation include: 
  • Authorizes aquatic invasive species research by the USACE that includes research on "Asian carp and zebra mussels."
  • Authorizes a 5-year harmful algal bloom technology development demonstration by the USACE.
  • Clarifies the operation and maintenance cost shares for the project at the Brandon Road to be 80 percent federal, 20 percent local, and directs the USACE to consult with the Governor of the state in which the project is constructed.
  • Authorizes the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study.
  • Authorizes the construction of a new Soo Lock.
  • Increases the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund authorization amount to $1.95 billion over three years.
  • Creates a Stormwater funding task force.
  • Reauthorizes and increases funding for Sewer Overflow Control Grants, while requiring twenty percent of the funds be used for green infrastructure, efficiency improvements, and other innovative activities.
  • Reauthorizes the WIFIA program.
For more information, please contact Matt McKenna, Director of the Great Lakes Washington Program, at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.
Turmoil Over Change in Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General

A Trump administration appointee who was reportedly picked to lead the Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General recently resigned from the federal government entirely. Suzanne Israel Tufts was serving as assistant secretary for administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, announced that she would be assigned to Interior's Office of the Inspector General. Officials within the Interior Department stated that they never approved of Tufts' hiring, and a spokeswoman for the office said that Tufts was referred as a potential candidate but was not offered a job.  Tufts has now resigned from HUD and will not be working for Interior either.

Many saw Tufts appointment as an opportunity to have a watchdog for Mary Kendall, the Interior Deputy Inspector General who has been conducting investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for his conduct. Tufts, a former consultant and attorney, listed on her resume that she volunteered for the Trump-Pence campaign by training and deploying lawyers in Philadelphia and New York.  Critics say that she is unqualified for an inspector general position, however. The Inspector General Act of 1978 specifies that candidates should not be chosen based on political affiliation but rather on integrity and abilities specific to the position.

For more information, please contact  Eric Heath , Senior Policy Counsel for the Mississippi River Basin Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute .

Dire Farm Forecasts for 2019, Stocks Slide in Wake of Trade War

According to a  forecast  by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, net farm income is estimated to drop next year by $9.8 billion, or 13.0%, from 2018 levels.  Furthermore, the forecast also predicts that "[n]et cash farm income is forecast to decrease $12.4 billion (12.0 percent) to $91.5 billion," and in"inflation-adjusted 2018 dollars, net farm income is forecast to decline $11.4 billion (14.8 percent) from 2017 after increasing $13.0 billion (20.3 percent) in 2017."

These bleak estimates follow the ongoing and escalating trade war between the U.S., China, and a number of American allies like Canada and the E.U.  Even though Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. came to a preliminary agreement about a proposed overhaul to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the agreement must still be ratified by all three countries, and the Trump administration's steel and aluminium tariffs are still in place, keeping trade relations tense.   Relations with China, meanwhile, show no sign of improving as the world's two largest economies continue to impose round after round of tariffs on the other.  

These tariffs and the subsequent retaliatory tariffs from the other country have hit the U.S. agriculture sector hard.  This has prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide up to $12 billion in trade assistance to producers of certain crops.  Farmers and economists argue that these subsidies are not nearly enough to remedy the economic harm from the tariffs, which has led to such a dire forecast. 

Additionally, news broke on Monday that the Trump Administration planned to impose tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports that do not currently face punitive taxes at the boarder if an upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping does not solve the trade hostilities.  These final imports mostly consist of consumer goods, which the Trump Administration's tariffs have avoided thus far, seemingly in an attempt by the Administration to conceal the impact of the trade war on consumers.  After the news became public, all major U.S. stock averages fell by at least 1%.

For more information, please contact  Eric Heath , Senior Policy Counsel for the Mississippi River Basin Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute .

This Week in Washington

The House and Senate are currently in recess until after the November midterms. 

NEMWI: Strengthening the Region that Sustains the Nation