Washington Week Ahead: Focus on Waters of U.S. 'Interpretive Rule'

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, JUNE 16, 2014 - Agricultural stakeholders will be closely following a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on Thursday as it reviews the “interpretive rule” included in the EPA's proposal for redefining the waters of the U.S. that fall under its jurisdiction as specified by the Clean Water Act.

The EPA says the interpretive rule aims to clarify the applicability of 56 exemptions from the permitting process provided under section 404 of the CWA to “discharges of dredged or fill material associated with certain agricultural practices,” based on USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service practices.

While the EPA says the so-called “waters of the U.S.” rule will protect the nation's streams and wetlands from pollution, the agricultural community for the most part regards the plan as another costly federal power grab.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas has come out strongly against the EPA proposal, exemptions notwithstanding.

“If EPA succeeds in doing by rule what Congress will never give them authority to do by law, basically they will control every drop of water from the ocean all the way back to the parking lot of your business, the rain coming off your barn, the drop coming off the brim of your hat,” he said in a recent interview with Agri-Pulse.

Globally Positioned Agriculture The Senate is expected to start voting as early as Tuesday on a miniature omnibus - known as a minibus. The package of three spending bills includes Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation.

Farmers and ranchers will also be keeping an eye on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack this week as he travels in Europe to discuss the importance of agriculture's role in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). The trip includes visits to Brussels, Luxembourg City, Paris and Dublin.

The U.S. and governments around the world are also observing National Pollinator Week, which was started by the Senate seven years ago as a way to address the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. For a list of events all around the country, click here.

This week's tentative events on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the Washington area include:

 

Monday, June 16

The House is not in session.

9:15 a.m. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack holds conference call with reporters on his trip to Europe this week and efforts to move forward the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

4 p.m. USDA weekly Crop Progress report.

 

Tuesday, June 17

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden speaks at the bio-based stakeholders dialogue at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

10 a.m. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation holds a hearing to review legislation including H.R. 4272, a bill to stop implementation and enforcement of the Forest Service travel management rule and to require the Forest Service to incorporate the needs, uses, and input of affected communities before taking any travel management action affecting access to units of the National Forest System derived from the public domain, and for other purposes.

12 p.m. The House meets for morning hour at noon then at 2 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will take place after 6:30 p.m.

10 a.m. Senate Agriculture Committee on Agriculture holds a hearing to examine the role that bio-based products play in helping to revitalize American manufacturing. The hearing s entitled “Grow it Here, Make it Here: Creating Jobs through Bio-Based Manufacturing.” Afterward, new technologies from 30 innovators will be spotlighted in the Kennedy Caucus Room starting at 11:30. Witnesses at the hearing include: Scott Vitters, general manager, plant-bottle innovation platform for Coca-Cola Co., and Kurtis Miller, president, business unit, Cargill Industrial Specialties. 328A Russell.

 

3 p.m. USDA reports on Turkey Hatchery and Potato Stocks

 

Wednesday, June 18

10 a.m. The House meets for morning hour and at noon for legislative business.

10 a.m. Senate Appropriations Committee's Energy and Water Development Subcommittee meets for markup of the FY15 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. 192 Dirksen.

10 a.m. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works' Clean Air Subcommittee holds a hearing entitled “Climate Change: The Need to Act Now.” Witnesses include former EPA administrators William D. Ruckelshaus, Christine Todd Whitman, William K. Reilly, and Lee M. Thomas. 406 Dirksen.

10 a.m. Senate Committee on Banking, House and Urban Development's Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment holds a hearing on “High Frequency Trading's Impact on the Economy. 528A Dirksen.

10 a.m. House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on Research and Technology holds a hearing on the future of ground transportation. 2318 Rayburn.

3 p.m. USDA reports on Broiler Hatchery and Milk Production.


 

Thursday, June 19

10 a.m. The House meets for morning hour and at noon for legislative business.

10 a.m. The House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry holds a hearing to review the Interpretative Rule proposed by EPA regarding the applicability of Clean Water Act agricultural exemptions. 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power holds a hearing to review EPA's proposed greenhouse gas regulations for existing power plants. Janet McCabe, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, will be the sole witness. 2123 Rayburn.

 

10:30 a.m. Full Senate Appropriations Committee meets to markup FY 2015 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill among other appropriations measures. 106 Dirksen.

3 p.m. USDA reports on Agricultural Land Values (Final Estimates 2009-2013), Floriculture Crops and Livestock Slaughter.

 

Friday, June 20

9 a.m. The House meets for legislative business with last votes expected no later than 3 p.m.

3 p.m. USDA reports on Cattle on Feed, Peanut Prices.

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