WASHINGTON, March 5, 2017 - The Senate is taking the final congressional step this week to kill the Obama administration’s overhaul of the way the Bureau of Land Management makes land-use decisions.
The House voted 234-186 in February to approve a resolution that would eliminate the BLM Planning 2.0 rule, which ranchers and other critics say would dilute the influence of local and regional officials on BLM decisions.
The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the measure. If the Senate OKs it, the rule would be eliminated once President Trump signs the resolution.
The rule, issued in December, is one of a series of regulations issued in the final months of the Obama administration that the Republican Congress is trying to kill through use of the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that had been used successfully only once prior to this year. A CRA resolution must be approved within a limited time after the Congress is formally notified that the regulation is taking effect.
The BLM resolution attracted just four Democratic votes in the House but the lack of bipartisan support isn’t a problem in the Senate since resolutions of disapproval there require only a simple majority to pass. Ordinary bills must have 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
“This is a common-sense use of Congress’ authority under the CRA,” said Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council and director of federal land policy for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“Planning 2.0 was finished hastily and pushed out the door over the objections of the local communities and stakeholders it will impact most. Hitting the reset button now will allow BLM the opportunity to update the planning process properly, with impacted stakeholders and communities at the table.”
Supporters of the rule say it provides for broader, ecosystem-wide management and better accounts for the environmental impact of BLM decisions. The Pew Charitable Trusts argues that the rule would ensure that “states and counties, scientists, ranchers, hunters and anglers, miners, hikers, boaters, the energy industry, and other users of public lands” can all have input to its management.
The Senate is beginning to catch up on confirming Trump’s Cabinet nominees, having approved Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week. The Senate Agriculture Committee continues to wait on the White House to deliver the formal paperwork for Sonny Perdue’s nomination as Agriculture secretary.
Hearings also have not been scheduled for Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s pick for U.S. Trade Representative and Labor nominee Alexander Acosta.
Also this week, the House Agriculture Committee will continue its preparation for writing a new farm bill by holding two additional subcommittee hearings on Thursday, one on rural development and energy programs and the other on programs that assist fruit, vegetable and nut producers.
Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, reiterated at the annual Commodity Classic on Friday in San Antonio that he wanted to get a new farm bill enacted by the time the existing one expires next year.
“If you want the drama associated with short-term extensions or expirations and permanent law, I need you to go to a different theater,” he said. Trump wants a “strong farm bill and on time,” Conaway said.
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The committee sent a letter to the House Budget Committee urging it not to propose cuts in farm bill spending.
Also on Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration will hold a public hearing on the use of the term “healthy” in food labeling. FDA announced last fall that it was considering new regulations for the term and was soliciting public input on a series of questions about what “healthy” should mean.
Among other things, the agency wants to know what consumers expect of foods that are labeled as healthy and what factors and criteria should be used for the new definition.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, March 6
National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, through Tuesday, Omni Shoreham.
National Farmers Union annual convention, through Wednesday, San Diego.
Tuesday, March 7
National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference.
NFU annual convention.
Wednesday, March 8
NFU annual convention.
10 a.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation oversight hearing on the Federal Communications Commission,
10 a.m. - Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on infrastructure funding, 192 Dirksen.
Thursday, March 9
All day - FDA holds public meeting on use of the term “healthy” in labeling foods, Hilton Rockville, Md.
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on rural development and energy programs, 1300 Longworth.
2 p.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on specialty crops and the farm bill, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. - House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee oversight hearing, 2362-A Rayburn.
10 a.m. - House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the federal role in water infrastructure, 2167 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on the use of science in agency rulemaking, 342 Dirksen.
Friday, March 10
3 p.m. - USDA releases report, Price Reaction after Crop Reports.
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