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 — Seventeen California cities and counties urged Congress on Tuesday to complete drought legislation that’s currently hung up in closed-door negotiations.

The municipal resolutions passed in recent weeks by small towns like Dos Palos and counties like Kern and Kings were presented to the House Natural Resources Committee, as part of a public drumbeat that included a several-hour long hearing on easing environmental rules.

“It’s continuing to make the case that we have to move forward,” Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said of the hearing Tuesday, adding later that “people in California are wondering if we in Congress are capable of coming together.”

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Congress is returning to plenty of unfinished California business. Then, it will soon depart again, leaving most of the Golden State goals still unmet.

One California lawmaker hoped this 113th Congress would authorize grants for an Altamont Pass rail project. Some sought to add six new federal judges to serve busy Central Valley courts. Others wanted the San Joaquin Delta declared a “national heritage area.”

But with little time remaining before they resume full-time campaigning, lawmakers coming back Monday know most home-state bills are dying on the vine. Some attrition is typical: bills are always easier to write than to pass. Some failures, though, reflect a particularly toxic Congress.

“Unfortunately, with so many challenges facing our country, this Congress has been dismal,” Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., said Friday. “It has been one of the least productive Congresses in history. It is disappointing and frustrating.”

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The recent senate border security decision (June 24, 2013) to increase the size of the Border Patrol by 20,000 agents, add 700 miles of fence, and deploy $3.2 billion in military equipment is likely to increase border deaths if current Border Patrol policies are continued. Most media coverage of the senate agreement and on the increasing deaths in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands does not examine the ways in which Border Patrol policies and actions contribute directly to the high number of deaths on the border this year. For example, last week’s LA Times article titled, “In 30 days, Border Patrol rescues 177 people from Arizona desert,” leaves out crucial background details related to the ways in which Border Patrol policies directly contribute to rising numbers of deaths on the border.

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Earlier this year, it was hard to be optimistic about any progress in Congress on the farm bill. Fiscal cliff legislation on New Year’s Day extended the current farm bill through September, buying time for more delays. And, there was so much on the legislative agenda—from budget sequestration to appropriations and more. But after watching sequestration take hold in March, Congress addressed appropriations for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2013 and moved on separate budget resolutions for FY2014. 

Still, when both the Senate and House agricultural committees announced plans for farm bill markup, no one could have expected the speed of deliberations in committee and the quick movement to floor consideration. On May 14, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up the farm bill legislation in little more than three hours. The following day, the House Agriculture Committee took about nine hours to get the job done. 

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FEB 25, 2013
 
 

The House Committee on Agriculture

MEDIA CONTACT:
Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184
tamara.hinton@mail.house.gov

WASHINGTON – Today, Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson issued the following statement in response to the recent release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) report on the various definitions of rural used in programs administered by the agency. The 2008 Farm Bill required USDA to complete this report by June 18, 2010 to assess how the various definitions have impacted rural development programs and to make recommendations on ways to better target funds.

 

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For anyone who follows what goes on (or what doesn’t) in Washington, it’s a well-known fact that significant pressure on members to act is a major ingredient for the success of any legislation, regardless of merits. Now, with the number of legislative days quickly waning for the 112th Congress, agriculture leaders are facing internal and external pressures that are driving their recent efforts to finalize a bill, which also gives more shape to the potential fates of a 2012 farm bill.

First, agriculture leaders understand the need to act. They have heard the increasingly concerned calls to action from many constituents in the food and agriculture system, and share those concerns. After the 2008 farm bill was allowed to expire on October 1, without current authority, agriculture programs are set to revert back to permanent law which includes a portfolio of outdated and impractical commodity pricing and subsidy programs. The fact that the farm bill was allowed to expire was never because any of the agriculture leaders thought this was in itself a good idea, but rather that it could lead to significant and necessary pressure on congress to act and achieve a bicameral compromise before any real consequences are realized. That time is quickly approaching. With the expired dairy provisions, consumers would start to see a spike in milk prices in the new year. This is important. While only a fraction of legislators include agriculture as a major priority for their legislative decisions, every legislator cares about the price for a gallon of milk just as they care about the prices their constituents are paying for a gallon of gas.

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