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NCFC Update
May 1, 2015


WOTUS Bills Moving Forward in Congress

Three efforts in Congress to address serious concerns with the “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rulemaking moved forward this week—separate authorizing bills in both the House and Senate and a House appropriations bill.

The House is set to consider the authorizing bill, H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their proposed rule redefining WOTUS under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The agencies would also be directed to work with state and local officials and other stakeholders to develop a new WOTUS rule that respects congressional intent and decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

NCFC strongly supports H.R. 1732, and is encouraging House members to vote in favor of the measure.  Consideration of the measure is likely to be the first order of business when the House returns from recess on May 11.  While the Administration has issued a veto threat on the bill, a strong bipartisan vote is important to show that this rulemaking has serious concerns with members on both sides of the aisle and needs to be reconsidered. 

The House FY2016 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which is being debated on the floor this week, would stop the WOTUS rule from going forward for a year by preventing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which administers the CWA permitting program for dredging and filling of jurisdictional waters and wetlands) from using any funds to implement the rule.  The bill also includes policy language carried over from the FY2015 appropriations bill that reaffirms CWA permit exemptions for normal farming practices and maintenance of irrigation ditches and other infrastructure.  Finally, the measure would bar the Administration from altering the definition of “fill material” under the CWA. 

NCFC also supports this appropriations strategy as it serves as a backstop should authorizing legislation get blocked in some way.

In the Senate, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140) was introduced on Thursday with bipartisan support.  The Senate bill differs slightly from the House bill in its approach, aiming to further address significant flaws in the proposed WOTUS regulation and requiring a more comprehensive regulatory proposal after the agencies have fully engaged in meaningful stakeholder consultation and administrative procedures.  NCFC fully supports S. 1140, and applauds its introduction. 

 

GMO Labeling Bill Gathering Momentum, June Markup Likely

This week, nearly 375 farm groups and agribusinesses, including NCFC, sent a letter to House members in support of H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The broad show of support comes the bill continues to gather momentum. Ten cosponsors have joined the bill over the past two weeks and there are indications that the House Energy and Commerce Committee may be preparing to take up the legislation. In an interview with a reporter for Agri-Pulse this week, Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said that a markup would likely be held for the measure sometime in June.

NCFC continues to work with the other members of the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food to build support for the legislation in the House and encourage introduction of a companion bill in the Senate.

 

House Agriculture Committee Approves Two Reauthorization Bills

                On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee advanced two bills to reauthorize programs important to agriculture out of the committee. The first, H.R. 2088, reauthorizes the US Grains Standards Act while the second, H.R. 2051, reauthorizes livestock mandatory price reporting. The bills were designed to help prevent interruption of grain inspections or price reporting. In the past few years, grain inspections have been impacted by a labor dispute at West Coast ports and price reporting was put on hold during the 2013 government shutdown.



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