Archive | June 2012

Farm Bill Update

Ari Neumann, Director of Policy, RCAP

Thank you to our guest blogger, Ari Neumann, RCAP, for providing this latest update on the Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill is a major piece of legislation that Congress takes up every five years to set our nation’s policy on farming, ranching, nutrition programs, forestry, bio-energy, and rural development. The last Farm bill, passed in 2008, is set to expire on September 30 of this year. The bill authorizes a variety of programs ranging from food stamps to commodity insurance to biofuel subsidies. One of the most important sections of the bill for small towns is the Rural Development Title. The RD Title establishes most of the non-housing programs at USDA’s Rural Development agency, including loans and grants for water/wastewater, loans and grants for essential community facilities (courthouses, fire stations, etc.), rural business programs, and rural broadband loans and grants.

Late last week, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill on a bipartisan basis by a vote of 64-35 (to see how your Senators voted, visit: http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=2&vote=00164). The Senate version reauthorized many of the Rural Development programs that benefit the communities with which MAP and the rest of the RCAP network partner. Specifically, it reauthorized the water and wastewater programs that finance small water or sewer system upgrades and improvements. It also reauthorized the technical assistance and training programs that allow organizations like MAP and the RCAP network to continue to work with small communities to address their water and wastewater needs. In addition, for the first time, the bill would allow technical assistance providers to work with communities enrolled in the Essential Community Facilities Program. The bill also streamlines a number of programs at RD to make applying for assistance more efficient and effective. Finally, the bill provides $50 million dollars over the next four years to help reduce the backlog of pending applications at RD’s water/waste program office. Despite this funding, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the total Farm Bill will save the federal government more than $23 billion over the next 10 years. Much of the savings comes through reforms to the federal crop subsidy programs and changes to the food stamp program.

Now that the bill has made its way through the Senate, it must proceed to the House of Representatives, where debate is set to begin on July 11. If the House can pass its version of the bill this summer, the two chambers will meet to reconcile the differences between their respective bills, and then send it to President Obama’s desk for his signature. The RCAP network will be closely monitoring the bill as it makes its way through the House to ensure that it continues to serve the needs of rural communities across the nation.

MAP Project Celebrates a Milestone!

Back in 2006, MAP Field Manager, Harold Reynolds, became involved with a project that would become the WAU-COL Regional Water System.  The Wausa and Coleridge (WAU-COL) project area in northeast Nebraska had several small villages with either a quantity or quality problem with their drinking water.  Wausa and Coleridge had a sufficient source of good quality water that could provide enough water to supply the six villages and themselves.

MAP staff, USDA-RD, Northeast Nebraska RC&D, Nebraska Health and Human Services and the Natural Resource Districts in the area formed an advisory coalition to assist the communities in forming the District.  The scope of the project included the development of a new water source for the communities of Magnet, McLean, Belden, and approximately 15 rural users.  Phase 1 of the project was recently completed, and the milestone was celebrated to provide special recognition to those who were instrumental to the project…..(view the full story on our website)

MAP Lift Station Training

Last Thursday, I was able to attend a MAP Lift Station Training presented by MAP staff Pete Smith, Glen Lueck, and Jason Gorr. The agenda included a lift station overview filled with safety tips, a field maintenance demo performed by PeopleService, a maintenance and troubleshooting session, a “Jeopardy” game to test what we’d learned, and a wrap-up session. As a novice in the wastewater industry, every aspect of this training was informative and  interesting to me.  The combination of classroom instruction and an actual field demonstration was especially useful. Each MAP trainer brought their own knowledge and experience into the training, which provided for an enlightening and entertaining day. As I say in every blog, I have a new-found respect for those operators out there keeping our water clean and our wastewater flowing. To check out upcoming MAP trainings in your area, visit the MAP training page.

National AWWA Conference a Success

As a national conference, one may expect a large crowd with watered down workshops, presentations, and vendor exhibits; this was not the case in Dallas, TX when the AWWA hosted its 12th annual conference.  The workshops, presentations, vendor exhibits, and networking provided for success stories, insight and know-how in the drinking water and wastewater fields, which can be applied in the field with rural communities.  The workshops contained pertinent information on an array of technical, managerial, financial, regulatory, political, and workforce development tracks; unfortunately, it is impossible to attend all at one time!  From the lakes of MN to the dry lands of Texas, this conference was a success, as it provided a deluge of information, tools, and resources for all who attended.

New Issue of Rural Matters Magazine Now Available

The new issue of RCAP’s Rural Matters magazine was sent electronically to subscribers today.  Feature stories include a report on our nation’s water infrastructure bill based on a study by American Water Works Association (AWWA) ; an explanation of what hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is; six things you can do to improve your utility; an editorial discussing the population shifts/trends in rural areas; as well as the latest news and resources from the Environmental Protection Agency.  Download your own PDF copy here, then be sure to visit the RCAP website to subscribe.

Urge your Senators to support Rural Development!

From the RCAP website: The Senate will be debating its version of the Farm Bill reauthorization over the course of this week and the next few weeks. The Rural Development Title of the bill reauthorizes a number of programs that are important to the vitality of rural America including:

  • Water and wastewater loans and grants
  • Essential community facilities loans and grants
  • Technical assistance programs to help rural communities develop sustainable infrastructure
  • Loan and grant programs for rural businesses and entrepreneurs

Please take this opportunity to let your Senators know that you support these programs and urge them to enact the Ag Committee’s version of the RD Title. With help from rural supporters like you, we can get a new Farm Bill passed before the current one expires on September 30 — one that invests in rural communities and preserves the rural way of life.

Follow this link, http://bit.ly/KS12aH, to fill out a quick, simple sample letter to send to your Senators.

A Solution to our Nation’s Water Crisis?

San Diego Wastewater Pilot Plant

The United States is facing a water crisis.  We use more water than the system can naturally replenish, and we abuse the supply we have.  Water touches every aspect of your life from drinking water to the manufacturing of every day products.  While we can’t “make” more water, there is one solution to water shortage problems that addresses issues of both quality and supply:  recycling wastewater.   A new pilot plant near San Diego and a national “NEWater” program in Singapore show it’s practical to turn wastewater into water that’s clean enough to drink.  Yet, in most of the world, we are resistant to do so.  Why?  While recycled water may be a smart and clean way to manage our water supply, our primitive instincts are more programmed to fear the murky water hole than to worry about climate change, new contaminants and population growth.  We should think green, but we can’t help thinking brown.  In the following video, Paul Rozin, does an excellent job explaining why we feel fear and disgust when addressing this issue:  http://nyti.ms/HZuzPO.  (Some material excerpted from New York Times article “Taking the Waste Out of Wastewater” by Jessica Yu, published April 21, 2012)

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