Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Legislation
H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 passed the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on April 15, 2015, with a 36-22 vote. Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI) sits on that committee and voted in favor of the legislation.
The bill requires the agencies to withdraw the current proposed WOTUS rule or any potential finalized rule and subsequently develop a new proposed rule. It continues to state the flawed process that EPA used when proposing WOTUS and the lack of consultation with stakeholders. An amendment was adopted in committee to strengthen state authority of the allocation of water resources.
The final WOTUS rule is expected to be released soon (summer of 2015). Significant concerns exist that the finalized rule will expand EPA’s jurisdiction and broaden the federal government’s authority to regulate waters and adjacent lands.
HR 1732 is expected to see floor action in the House of Representatives as early as Thursday, April 30, 2015. Wisconsin Farm Bureau sent the members of the House of Representatives a letter of support for this legislation. Bipartisan legislation also is expected to be introduced in the Senate as early as Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation supports H.R. 1732 to prohibit the EPA from enacting the WOTUS rule.
WATERS OF THE U.S. COMMENTS – WFBF’s formal comments can be viewed here.
Death Tax Repeal
H.R. 1105, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 passed the House of Representatives on April 16, 2015, with a 240-179 vote. Congressmen Ryan (R-WI), Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Grothman (R-WI), Duffy (R-WI) and Ribble (R-WI) voted in favor of the legislation.
There is Senate companion legislation (S. 860) authored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) with more than 30 Republican cosponsors.
The Estate Tax exemption is set at $5 million and is indexed for inflation. The current indexed estate tax exemption is $5.43 million. With 90 percent of farm and ranch assets illiquid, producers have few options when it comes to generating cash to pay the estate tax.
Farm real estate and cropland in Wisconsin has appreciated in value by 100 and 105 percent, respectively, from 2002 to 2013. This increased value of farmland has greatly increased the number of farms that top the estate tax exemption.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation continues to support estate tax repeal to preserve and protect our family farms.
Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)
H.R. 1890/S. 995, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (TPA) was introduced on April 16, 2015. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, is the bill author for legislation in the House. The Senate Finance Committee passed TPA on April 22, 2015, with a 20-6 vote and the House Ways and Means Committee passed TPA on April 23, 2015, with a 25-13 vote. The legislation is now ready for floor votes.
TPA allows Congress to set negotiating objectives for the White House and provides consultation between Congress and the Administration during negotiations. It also delegates the White House to participate in negotiating trade agreements on behalf of the U.S. Government.
Once a final trade package is agreed upon by all participating countries, a final trade package is then delivered to Congress for a “yes” or “no” vote. There are no amendments or changes allowed by Congress at this stage.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation supports passage of TPA.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget and the Senate passed a budget resolution bill during the last week of March.
Neither the Senate budget resolution, nor their amendments are law but the amendments send clear directives to the subcommittees and the budget sets the amount of money that the Appropriations Committees may spend on programs that must be renewed each year (discretionary). There are 12 appropriation subcommittees. If an authorizing committee fails to meet its budget targets, there is a process called reconciliation that allows the Budget Committee to make the appropriate changes.
Both the House and Senate must first approve a budget conference report in order for there to be budget reconciliation. The House and Senate are expected to begin conference report meetings in April.
The President must sign reconciliation bills for them to become law.
OSHA Recordkeeping and Reporting Rule
As of January 1, 2015, OSHA has updated their Recordkeeping and Reporting Rule. There is a farm exemption that applies if the following criteria are met including employing 10 or fewer employees and no labor camp associated with the farm.
This exemption ONLY applies to maintaining injury and illness records for OSHA. The exemption does NOT apply to complying with OSHA’s new severe injury and illness reporting requirements. ALL farms must report to OSHA if they have a severe injury or illness that fall within the following categories.
These include reporting
* All work-related fatalities within 8 hours
* All work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours
You can report to OSHA by
* Calling OSHA’s free and confidential number at 1-800-321-6742
* Calling your Area Office during normal business hours
* Using the new online form that will be available soon at www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/index.html
GMO Food Labeling
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599) was introduced in the House of Representatives on March 25, 2015, by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KAN) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). This legislation would provide a national framework for the voluntary labeling of GMO foods based on consistent, national standards that are driven by science.
It also would authorize the USDA as the agency to oversee these labeling requirements. Farm Bureau and the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food are seeking a federal solution to the labeling of foods from modern biotechnology.
Congressman Ribble (R-WI) introduced a bill (H.R. 884) in the House of Representatives, in mid-February addressing wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region (Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota) and Wyoming.
This legislation would reinstate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) decision to delist the gray wolf from the endangered species list in 2011. It would then prohibit judicial review of the delisting, preventing animal rights groups from pushing their legislative agendas through the courts. Similar legislation was passed in 2012, upholding USFWS decision to delist the gray wolf for Idaho and Montana.
At this time we are unsure what track this legislation will take but we are watching it closely and supportive of Congressman Ribble’s bill. To-date, there has not been similar legislation introduced in the Senate.