Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thursday Roundup: Duck Stamp Congress

11/29/2012

Yes, it was the glorious, but humble, duck stamp that derailed the sportsmen's bill in the U.S. Senate.

Call it death by duck stamp

Politico tells the sad tale of how Sen. Jon Tester's sportsman bill died. It involves the duck stamp. 

Tester's bill had support from both parties, from the White House and from the National Rifle Association. It came to the floor after the election. And it was defeated.

Politico's David Rogers says it was because of the duck stamp, which has been sold by the government since 1934 as a way for hunters and conservationists to support wetlands for migratory birds. Duck stamps are attached to their hunters' licenses. The design of the stamp is now part of a national competition and, well, the duck stamp is a big deal. They are collectors' items.

The objection to Tester's sportsman bill, raised by Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican, had to do with the technical way duck stamp revenues were recorded in the budget. The proposal was to raise the duck stamp fee from $15 to $25 to pay for the bill — and that subjected the entire bill to an earlier budget agreement on spending and revenues.

Sessions objected and enough Republicans followed for the bill to fail 50 to 44. (Any bill now needs 60 votes to pass the Senate.)

And that was that. Welcome to the Senate!

Rice and Keystone — On Earth, an environmental news site, is reporting that Susan Rice, President Obama's favorite to be the next Secretary of State, "holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline." 

This is dicey because the next Secretary of State will decide if the Keystone XL pipeline will be allowed to cross the U.S./Canada border on its way south to the Gulf Coast.

The site says that Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company that is building the Keystone XL pipeline. Landowners in both Nebraska and Texas have protested the pipeline.

Here is how Politico described Rice's holdings in a large number of oil companies.  

Genachowski Review — The Washington Post reviews the term of Julius Genachowski as chair of the Federal Communications Commission. 

"Genachowski points to a string of achievements," writes Cecilia Kang, "including outlining a plan for auctions of airwaves that could raise billions for the government and a landmark effort to spread access to broadband Internet in rural America, a priority of President Obama."

Farm Bill Doings — Politico reports that the top House and Senate Farm Bill leaders will lunch today with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

The idea is to finish a bill by the end of the month. Politico notes that additional pressure on Congress comes with the assurance that doing nothing would lead to a doubling of milk prices come January.

The current strategy is to fold a final, 5-year Farm Bill into whatever deficit reduction package is put together to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of January. Politico explains the "milk mountain" lawmakers face if they do nothing and allow the old Farm Bill to expire:

Absent some agreement, dairy policy would revert to a 1949 law that prescribes a post World War II vision of a more muscular government buying up dairy products directly to boost prices. The Agriculture Department would pay producers $38.54 per hundredweight compared to a market now running at $16.22, and the result would be havoc— and many estimate a doubling in consumer prices for milk.

More Mine Layoffs — Not all the coal mine closures are in Appalachia. 

Peabody Energy is closing a mine in Southern Illinois. The company says the mine has been plagued by safety and productivity problems. Two weeks ago, a miner was killed after he was pinned by a piece of mining equipment. 

The mine employed 400 underground coal miners.

Sheep and Wolves — A project that has joined pro-wolf groups and ranchers has had remarkable success in reducing the number of sheep killed by the predators, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports. Becky Kramer writes:

About 100 sheep deaths have been attributed to wolves in the Sun Valley area since 2007. Nine wolves have been killed, according to state statistics. But where individual ranchers have worked with Defenders of Wildlife on nonlethal deterrents, documented sheep losses are about 90 percent lower than statewide averages. And no wolves have been killed for preying on livestock.

Using noisemakers, spotlights and night watchmen to keep wolves away from sheep are new practices for many Sun Valley ranchers, whose ancestors helped rid the range of predators. But at Lava Lake Land & Livestock in Hailey, officials view coexistence as a necessity.

About 2,500 sheep from the ranch share Idaho’s public lands with people who want wolves on the landscape, said Mike Stevens, Lava Lake’s former president.

Flood in a Drought — The AP writes about Waubay, South Dakota, which is suffering from too much water during a time when the Upper Midwest is suffering from drought. 

The town is located on lakes that have no natural outlet. There has been a wet cycle that began in the 1990s and that has gradually flooded the town. 

Low Flow Wows — The American Farm Bureau is asking the Obama administration to allow more upstream water to flow to the Mississippi River, where low flows are hindering navigation.