Potato Wars on Capitol Hill
Sen. Susan Collins is a more gentle soul than your typical Republican Steering Group regular, but there she was in the Capitol last week: Ms. Maine Moderate lunching with the “Sons of Jesse Helms” — all in the name of the potato.
It was a jaw-dropping, don’t-spill-your-fries moment and a sign of the newest civil rights frontier of this dysfunctional Congress: the battle over equity among vegetables.
Deal close on cut in farm subsidies
Under pressure to cut farm subsidies, Agriculture Committee leaders in Congress are closing in on a 10-year savings target near $23 billion, about a third less than what House Republicans and President Barack Obama had proposed but still a significant change.
No final announcement has been made, but the bipartisan leadership met Tuesday evening, and three lawmakers told POLITICO that they expected the final savings to be in $23 billion range.
Ohio EPA to clarify water quality trading rules
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
Updates to a program that allows voluntary trading of water quality pollution credits are being considered by Ohio EPA as part of a five-year rule review. Public comments on draft rules are sought through October 25, 2011.
Water quality trading is a voluntary program, typically undertaken by wastewater treatment plants, that allows dischargers to use pollutant reduction credits to offset reductions required by their permits. The credits may be generated by another wastewater treatment plant or by a nonpoint source. The goal of the program is to improve water quality and minimize the cost of achieving and maintaining water quality standards.
Ohio Turnpike tolls to rise
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Turnpike tolls are expected to go up Jan. 1, despite an earlier proposed freeze and opposition from truckers.
Turnpike Commission Chairman Jerry Hruby has said the increase, which is about 10 percent for trucks and cars, is necessary and already in the budget.
The previous chairman, Joseph Balog, said in June that rates should be held steady next year for users of the E-ZPass electronic toll system to satisfy truckers and give motorists a break during a tough economy, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported today.
Demand unusually high for Ohio pumpkin crop this year
Ohio’s crop of pumpkins for jack-o’-lanterns and decorations is expected to be good or at least average this year. But demand from the Northeast, where pumpkin crops were damaged by Hurricane Irene, could push prices higher.
Central Ohio’s weather didn’t do the local pumpkin crop any favors.
Record rains in the spring and an unusually hot and dry summer led the state’s pumpkin crop to an “erratic performance,” said Lisa Schacht, board president of the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association.
Low interest rates mean opportunities for farmers
Farm and Dairy
The perfect storm of economics is giving many farmers opportunities they might not have seen coming.
Mark Hancock, vice president and treasurer of Farm Credit Services, said the down economy has created low rates for borrowing, but unfortunately shows a sign of general weakness in the economy.
Congress ends 5-year standoff on three free trade deals
New York Times
WASHINGTON — Congress passed three long-awaited free trade agreements on Wednesday, ending a political standoff that has stretched across two presidencies. The move offered a rare moment of bipartisan accord at a time when Republicans and Democrats are bitterly divided over the role that government ought to play in reviving the sputtering economy.
The approval of the deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama is a victory for President Obama and proponents of the view that foreign trade can drive America’s economic growth in the face of rising protectionist sentiment in both political parties. They are the first trade agreements to pass Congress since Democrats broke a decade of Republican control in 2007.
All three agreements cleared both chambers with overwhelming Republican support just one day after Senate Republicans prevented action on Mr. Obama’s jobs bill.
U.S. Senate approves China currency manipulation bill
New York Times
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan cross-section of Congress seems to agree that China manipulates its currency in ways that make it harder for many American manufacturers to compete. Where they cannot find alignment is on how best to address that problem, while maintaining America’s relationship with its biggest lender and a major trading partner.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that would require the Treasury Department to order the Commerce Department to impose tough tariffs on certain Chinese goods in the event of a finding by the Treasury that China was improperly valuing its currency to gain an economic advantage.
The measure passed 63 to 35, with 16 Republican votes, an unusual dynamic in the Democrat-controlled Senate. It enjoyed rare support from members of both parties despite the strong disapproval of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, who pressed his party colleagues to vote against it.