What’s ahead for Washington this week: Disaster planning

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, May 23 – One clear message from the BP oil blowout is that the oil industry and its federal government regulators both failed to plan for the worst. The hugely expensive result is an economic and environmental disaster far worse than it would have been if the wellhead blowout preventer hadn’t failed due to dead batteries, poor design, incorrect information about its specifications, and apparent operator incompetence.

The good news from the BP disaster is that it may lead to far better energy and climate policy in the future – and far more support for transitioning to renewable energy ASAP. Which gives added importance to where Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack will be this Wednesday – addressing the White House’s May 25-27 “National Climate Adaptation Summit.” He’ll be a key part of one more “whole of government effort,” in this case an effort to ensure that even if the worst predictions about climate change turn out to be correct, the government and private sector will be thoroughly prepared to provide the American public with “reliable access to water, food, energy, transportation, and health services.”

Dealing with another disaster – widespread childhood hunger and poverty in the world’s best-fed, richest nation – Secretary Vilsack will deliver the keynote address Monday at the Center for American Progress conference on “Ending Childhood Hunger in America: A Look at the Problem, the Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, and Other Solutions.” That’s a subject likely to come up again both when the Secretary speaks to the Agribusiness Club of Washington on Tuesday and when he wraps up his week by heading home to Iowa to deliver the commencement address at Des Moines University on Saturday.

Both the House and Senate will hold more hearings this week on dealing with the BP oil blowout. Meanwhile, preparations are under way to name members to the joint conference committee to resolve differences between the separate Wall Street reform bills passed by the House and Senate. The hope is to finalize a bill in time to have President Obama sign new regulations into law before July 4th – to control if not completely prevent future financial industry blowouts. Count on more heated debate about Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s tough new rules for derivatives trading which even some Democrats like Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd would like to water down in the final Wall Street bill.

Congressional hearings this week include:

Tuesday, May 25

  • Senate Energy Committee hearing on the BP oil spill, focused on liability and financial responsibility issues related to offshore oil production and S. 3346, a bill to increase the limits on civil and criminal penalties under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

Wednesday, May 26

  • Senate Agriculture Committee nominations hearing on Elizabeth Hagen to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety, Catherine Woteki to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics, and, as Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation board members, Sara Faivre-Davis, Lowell Lee Junkins, and Myles Watts
  • House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on the outer continental shelf oil and gas strategy and implications of the Deepwater Horizon Rig explosion

Thursday, May 27

  • House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee hearing on combating the BP oil spill
  • House Judiciary Committee hearing on liability issues surrounding the Gulf Coast oil disaster
  • Continued House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on the outer continental shelf oil and gas strategy and implications of the Deepwater Horizon Rig explosion

USDA’s Economic Research Service & National Agricultural Statistics Service reports:

  • Tuesday, May 24, Crop Progress
  • Tuesday, May 25, Poultry Slaughter, Weather-Crop Summary, Monthly Milk Cost of Production
  • Wednesday May 26, Broiler Hatchery
  • Thursday, May 27, Sheep and Goats Death Loss, Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade
  • Friday, May 28, Dairy Products Prices, Agricultural Prices, Egg Products, Peanut Prices, Peanut Stocks and Processing, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook

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