Essentially all House Democrats sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, stating their opposition to the $40 billion in cuts to the food stamp program being proposed by Republicans. A bill that would impose the cuts in the program is expected to be brought up for a vote in September.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., says the proposal restricts eligibility to the program and installs new work requirements and restrictions that would rein in program abuse.
While the bill may get enough votes to pass in the House, there is essentially no chance that it will become law. The latest data show that 47.6 million people are receiving benefits under the food stamp program (now called SNAP).
Ag Secretary Vilsack says the U.S. will have to stop making payments to Brazil that the U.S. agreed to after the WTO ruled that our cotton programs violated world trade rules. The payments to Brazil were supposed to give U.S. lawmakers time to develop new legislation that would be consistent with world trade rules.
However, the inability of Congress to pass a new farm bill has already caused friction with the Brazilian government. But it is not clear that the farm bill proposals passed by the House and the Senate would meet the WTO objective anyway. Some experts in Brazil say the cotton program in the proposed bills would be even worse than the programs they would replace! This dispute between the U.S. and Brazil will probably get more contentious in the future and Brazil still has the option of taking retaliatory action against imports of U.S. goods.
The U.S. government deficit is 38 percent smaller than it was in fiscal 2012 through the first 10 months of fiscal 2013. Tax revenues so far total $2.287 trillion, the highest level since before the recession began. Government spending is also down modestly, due in part to the sequester cuts that went into effect early this year. The deficit is still huge, at $607 billion so far, but it will be down this year from levels of the last few years.
Other news from Washington:
- The American Petroleum Institute (API) has filed a waiver request for EPA to lower the ethanol mandate below the 10 percent of gasoline for 2014. The API says the RFS is “broken beyond repair” and must be changed. The group claims that the RFS could drive up diesel costs by 300 percent and gasoline prices by 30 percent by 2015. Ethanol industry groups contend the API is just trying to eliminate competition for their products.
- Senators Franken, D-Minn., and Grassley, R-Iowa, have introduced legislation to reverse a Supreme Court ruling which they claim makes it hard for families to reorganize their finances when they file for bankruptcy under chapter 12. The Supreme Court ruled that farmers filing under Chapter 12 had to pay taxes on the sale of assets before they could begin to pay creditors. The proposed legislation would reverse the order with payments to the IRS after creditors had been paid.
- A bill to cut EPA’s funding by 38% for fiscal 2014 is hotly contested by EPA’s Chief Financial Officer, who warns the budget drafted by the House Appropriations Committee for fiscal 2014 would “severely curtail” EPA’s ability to protect human health and the environment. The bill would still provide EPA being worked on by the committee would provide EPA with funding of $5.5 billion, 34 percent less that the budget approved for fiscal 2013. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) says the lower funding would “right size” what he and other bill supporters consider an “overzealous” EPA. The EPA CFO counters that the bill would “turn back EPA’s progress in protecting the environment by almost a quarter century.”