U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson - 2nd District of Idaho
U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson - 2nd District of Idaho
House Passes Six Month Continuing Resolution

On September 13, 2012, the House passed H.J.Res. 117, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013.  The bill funds discretionary government operations through March 27, 2013, at the level approved in the Budget Control Act passed last year. 

The CR funds programs under the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee’s jurisdiction are funded at $30.239 billion, a $984 million increase over FY12 funding.  This includes about $820 million in wildland fire money, as well as an across-the-board increase.  Programs under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee are funded at $20.318 billion, a $142 million increase over FY12.

Congressman Simpson Continues to Press for a Five-Year Farm Bill

Congressman Mike Simpson joined colleagues in requesting a meeting with Majority Leader Eric Cantor to discuss the importance of allowing a five-year Farm Bill to be brought to the House floor so members can have a vote. Without congressional action, the 2008 Farm Bill and certain authorized programs will expire at the end of this month. Simpson continues to urge his colleagues in the House of Representatives to bring a full reauthorization to the House floor for a vote.

“Farmers and ranchers in Idaho and across the country need some certainty,” said Simpson. “Allowing the current Farm Bill to expire and certain agriculture programs, like the dairy program, to revert back to early 20th century laws is not an option. We are running out of time, and Congress should be allowed to vote on a new five-year Farm Bill.”

Simpson Directs Increased Resources to Fight Wildfires
Continuing resolution includes $821 million increase in wildland fire funding to respond to deadly fire season

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson ensured that adequate funding for wildfire suppression was included in the continuing resolution passed last week by the House of Representatives.  As Idaho continues to face devastating forest and range fires, Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, has worked to make sure that land managers have the funding necessary to protect lives and property. 

The continuing resolution increases wildfire suppression funding by $398 million from fiscal year 2012.  In addition, because of the severe fire season, firefighting costs were higher than anticipated, and the Forest Service had to borrow a great deal of funding from other non-fire accounts after running out of wildfire suppression funding.  To address this issue, the CR provides $400 million to reimburse the Forest Service and $23 million to reimburse the Department of Interior for the fire borrowing they have had to do this year.

“As this intense fire season rages on and countless acres of Idaho continue to burn, firefighters and land managers are working around the clock to save Idaho lands and communities.  It is critical that they have the resources to manage and put out fires.  It is also important that agencies don’t have to rob other land management accounts when they run out of fire suppression funding—especially funding that could help prevent catastrophic wildfires.  It’s hard to budget for fire because you never know how bad the fire season will be, and the funding in this bill will go a long way in making sure the day-to-day activities on national forests and public lands continue without interruption.”

The House passed the FY12 continuing resolution by a vote of 329-91.  The resolution, which is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law in coming days, extends government funding at the level previously agreed to in the Budget Control Act for the next six months.

“As a lifelong Idahoan, I have seen the impact of catastrophic fires first hand, and as Chair of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, providing adequate funding for wildfire suppression has been a priority.  That’s why I’m pleased that this bill fully funds wildfire suppression at the 10-year average.  I believe it is also important that we review our existing fire policy and continue to look at reforms necessary to improve the health of our forests and rangelands.

Simpson increased wildfire funding as part of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Act for FY13 passed out of Committee in June.  His bill also provided more funding to remove hazardous fuels buildup and prevent catastrophic fires.

Preserving America’s Family Farms Act Passes House

On July 25, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4157, the Preserving America’s Family Farms Act. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson is a cosponsor of the bill, which prevents the Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary from reissuing a proposed rule that would limit farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to hire youth to work in agriculture.

“This DOL proposal was a misguided idea that threatens the ability of America’s youth to work on family farms and other agricultural operations,” said Simpson. “It would also restrict families in their efforts to pass on the generational knowledge and the hands-on learning that is critical to the survival of the agricultural industry.”

When H.R. 4157 was originally introduced, it explicitly prevented the Secretary of Labor from finalizing or enforcing the proposed child labor regulations that would have prohibited young people under the age of 16 from working on farms. The proposed rule was subsequently withdrawn in April 2012, following objection from the agricultural community. Congressman Simpson was pleased when the DOL dropped the proposed rule that would have transformed the way of life for thousands of family farms and ranches across the country, and he cosponsored H.R. 4157 in order to prevent this absurd and overreaching rule from being considered in the future.

The Preserving America’s Family Farms Act is now being considered by the U.S. Senate.

This is the second letter Simpson has sent to House leadership asking to bring the new Farm Bill, already passed by the House Agriculture Committee, to a vote on the House floor. Farm bill legislation addresses issues including agriculture, food stamps and nutrition, land and water conservation, and energy independence.

Fresh Potatoes and the WIC Program

In June, Congressman Simpson successfully added an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill allowing for the use of fresh potatoes in the WIC program. 

Congressman Simpson is a member of the Appropriations Committee and offered an amendment to allow states to include fresh potatoes in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Congressman Simpson’s amendment passed by voice vote.  While the Agriculture Appropriations Act for FY13 was passed out of committee on June 19, 2012, the bill did not come to the House floor before the House passed a continuing resolution extending current government funding for six months. 

Congressman Simpson also sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, requesting that he seriously reconsider allowing the purchase of fresh white potatoes through the WIC program.

Fresh potatoes have been excluded from the WIC program despite their widely known nutritional value,” said Simpson. “This important amendment corrects the unfair exclusion on fresh potatoes and allows participants to make smart wholesome food choices for their young families.”

Potatoes are currently excluded from the WIC program despite being nutrient dense, affordable, low in calories, and free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium. A medium-sized potato packs more potassium than a banana and is a good source of dietary fiber—both of which are “nutrients of concern,” meaning those nutrients most lacking in Americans’ diets, according to USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.