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W E E K L Y  U P D A T E      July 2, 2018
 
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Conference Committee Ahead after Senate Passes Farm Bill 86-11
 
The Senate met its target date by passing its version of the Farm Bill before their recess for Independence Day. The vote took place this past Thursday with only small opposition of  11 Republican Senators and a total of 86 supporters from both sides of the aisle. This came after the 89-3 procedural vote to proceed with debate last Monday.
 
The House had a much narrower victory when it passed its version of the bill, 213-211, on June 21st.
 
Since both chambers of Congress have now passed th eir versions of the Farm Bill, members of the House and Senate must form a conference committee. Its
purpose will be to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill such as work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), limits on farm subsidies, and changes to the conservation title. The Institute discussed the key differences between the two bills in last week's Weekly Update Newsletter which can be found here.

Politico reported House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson's prediction that "a farm bill can make it out of conference committee before the August recess."
 
If the House and Senate cannot negotiate a Farm Bill in a conference session and a consensus bill is not signed into law by the September 30th deadline, it is likely that the Farm Bill will receive a year-long extension.


Trump Administration Requests Budget Cuts to Clean Energy Research for the Second Time This Year


The Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is facing the prospect of a 71% budget cut. This became public after  The Washington Post reported that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent out a memo last Friday "direct[ing] the department to submit a budget request that would reduce funding for all nondefense offices by 5 percent from what the administration sent to Congress for the fiscal 2019."
 
In February, the Trump administration's FY19 budget request included a proposal to fund EERE at $696 million, a small portion of the  $2.3 billion  it received for FY18. Rather than going along with President Trump's large budget cut, Congress appropriated $2.3 billion to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for FY19.
 
According to its  website , EERE "leads a large network of researchers and other partners to deliver innovative technologies that will make renewable electricity generation cost competitive with traditional sources of energy." Further, its  2016-2020 Strategic Plan , explains that its mission is to "create and sustain American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy." Because the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's purpose does not align with the current administration's goal to "boost outlays for the [Department of Energy]'s weapons program," it is included in OMB's proposed cuts.
 
The Office of Management and Budget's memo means that the Department of Energy was instructed to submit a budget request that only included a $661 million budget for EERE. If this action of the administration is approved by Congress, EERE would receive less than a third of its FY19 budget.


EPA Faces Criticism after Release of PFAS Report, Biofuel Proposal

The Department of Health and Human Services recently released its report that  Politico stated, "found some [per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)] chemicals can pose a danger at one-tenth of the level EPA set as the safety threshold."
 
These nonstick chemicals are present in food packaging, food processing equipment, contaminated water, among other things. According to the  Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry , PFAS are believed to increase the risk of cancer.
 
The release of the PFAS report comes after concern arose in May once news outlets  reported on internal e-mails which revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency "sought to block publication of [this] federal health study . . . . [that] would show that [per- and polyfluoroalkyl] endanger human health at a far lower level than [the] EPA has previously called safe."
 
Following the disclosure of its e-mails, the EPA held a two-day National Leadership Summit, beginning on May 22, at which the agency discussed the risks of PFAS. This did not put an end to the criticism, though. In an effort "[t]o fully engage with communities in the weeks following the summit . . . . [and] hear directly from the public how to best help states and communities facing this issue,"  the Environmental Protection Agency  plans to visit cities in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and North Carolina this summer.
 
The EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt also recently  visited  Kansas and South Dakota where farmers expressed their concern and frustration over the possibility that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will favor oil companies and hurt ethanol producers. Following these meetings, "[t]he Trump administration . . . propos[ed] to modestly increase the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that the nation's oil refiners have to blend into the gasoline and diesel they sell," according to  The Hill .
 
Pruitt and the EPA continue facing criticism from proponents of ethanol. They do not believe the RFS will offset enough of the 1.6-billion-gallons-worth of business that they lose as a result of a RFS waiver for small refiners. Oil companies, on the other hand, are not in favor of the proposal because if the RFS for 2019 changes to 19.88 billion gallons, they will need to include 3.1% more biofuel into their gasoline and diesel.


USACE Announces New 
Soo Lock Economic Validation Study Complete

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it has completed a new Soo Lock Economic Validation Study in order to seek an updated authorization for construction of a second Poe sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
 
The study established a new Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 2.42. In order for a navigation project to be eligible to compete for federal funding, it needs a BCR of greater than one. Previously, a 2005 study by the USACE had only found a BCR of 0.7. 
 
The USACE will request full funding for the new lock in the FY 2020 President's budget.  The total cost to build the new lock is expected to be $922 million over seven to ten years.  More information can be found at the USACE's website here .


This Week in Washington
 


Both chambers of Congress will not be in session this week due to their week-long recess for Independence Day.




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