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Archive for the ‘Congressional Research Service’ Category

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports About the Middle East

February 27, 2015 Comments off

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports About the Middle East (PDFs)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

CRS — U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2015 (February 18, 2015)

February 25, 2015 Comments off

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2015 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $73.6 billion in 2015, down 32% from last year’s level of $108.0 billion. The 2015 forecast would be the lowest since 2009. Net cash income is projected down 22.4% in 2015 to $89.4 billion.

The forecast for lower net farm income and net cash income is primarily a result of the outlook for lower crop and livestock receipts—down a combined 6.3%. The fall in cash receipts comes despite record corn and soybean harvests in 2014, as commodity prices plunged in the last half of 2014 and are expected to remain at substantially lower levels compared with the period of 2012- 2014, when prices for many major program crops experienced record or near-record highs.

Government payments are projected up by 15% to $12.4 billion, which partially offsets the $25.8 billion decline in crop and livestock receipts. The 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014; P.L. 113-79) eliminated direct payments of nearly $5 billion per year and replaced them with a new suite of price and revenue support programs. In particular, the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program replaced the previous Counter-Cyclical Price (CCP) program, but with a set of reference prices based on substantially higher support levels for most program crops. Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) relies on a five-year moving average price trigger in its payment calculation, but also adopts the PLC reference price as the minimum guarantee in years when market prices fall below it. The higher relative support levels of PLC and ARC are expected to trigger payments of $6.2 billion in 2015.

CRS — Water Quality Issues in the 114th Congress: An Overview (January 21, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Water Quality Issues in the 114th Congress: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Congressional Research Service)

Much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established in 1972 in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. However, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or “nonpoint” sources, to toxic substances discharged from factories and sewage treatment plants.

There is little agreement among stakeholders about what solutions are needed, whether legislation is required to address the nation’s remaining water pollution problems, or whether regulatory authorities should be reduced. For some time, efforts to comprehensively amend the CWA have stalled as interests have debated whether and exactly how to change the law. Congress has instead focused legislative attention on enacting narrow bills to extend or modify selected CWA programs, but not comprehensive proposals.

CRS — The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (January 16, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates that U.S. transportation fuel must contain a minimum volume of biofuel, is a federal statutory requirement. The mandated minimum volume increases annually, and can be met using both corn-starch ethanol and advanced biofuels. In order for a biofuel to be applied toward the mandate, it must meet certain environmental and biomass feedstock criteria. A variety of factors (e.g., infrastructure, technology, weather, the “blend wall,” and federal assistance) have led to challenges, including delays by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in setting the annual volume standards and a lack of cellulosic biofuel production. Further, it is not clear how declining oil and gasoline prices will impact the biofuel industry. Challenges in implementing the RFS have led to investigations of the RFS by some in Congress, and to court rulings. More specifically, the 113th Congress held seven hearings where the RFS or renewable fuels was the focus or a recurring topic of discussion, and since 2010 there have been five legal challenges regarding EPA’s administration of the RFS. Because of concerns about the implementation and feasibility of the RFS, some Members of Congress have questioned whether it is time to amend or repeal the RFS, or to maintain the status quo.

This report provides a basic description of the RFS, including some of the widely discussed issues.

Post-9/11 Evolution of the United States’ Defining of the Terrorist Threat from Al Qaeda, CRS Insights (January 20, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Post-9/11 Evolution of the United States’ Defining of the Terrorist Threat from Al Qaeda, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda-related entities have increased in number and become more diffuse; with these changes there has been an evolution in how the United States defines the terrorist threat. How the threat has evolved could influence consideration of new authorities and policies in the 114th Congress.

CRS — A Guide to Describing the Income Distribution (February 5, 2015)

February 23, 2015 Comments off

A Guide to Describing the Income Distribution (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The distribution of income in the United States features heavily in congressional discussions about the middle class, program funding and effectiveness, new and existing target groups, government tax revenue, and social mobility, among other topics. Recently, the level and distribution of U.S. income have also been raised in the context of broader macroeconomic issues, such as economic growth. Accordingly, Congress has sought information on the absolute and relative experience of U.S. households, the range of incomes, and their dispersion.

Describing the income distribution involves several important choices about the definition of income and the level at which income data are examined. Income can be constructed narrowly (e.g., earnings only) or broadly (e.g., as the sum of earnings, capital gains, government transfers, and other sources); it can be presented in pre-tax status or reflect taxes paid and tax credits received. Income can be presented at the individual level or represent pooled resources among households, families, or tax units. These choices about how to define income affect the magnitude of income indicators and the shape and range of the U.S. income distribution. For this reason, disagreement over the interpretation of income levels and trends frequently centers on how income is defined.

CRS — Alien Removals and Returns: Overview and Trends (February 3, 2015)

February 23, 2015 Comments off

Alien Removals and Returns: Overview and Trends
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The ability to remove foreign nationals (aliens) who violate U.S. immigration law is central to the immigration enforcement system. Some lawful migrants violate the terms of their admittance, and some aliens enter the United States illegally, despite U.S. immigration laws and enforcement. In 2012, there were an estimated 11.4 million resident unauthorized aliens; estimates of other removable aliens, such as lawful permanent residents who commit crimes, are elusive. With total repatriations of over 600,000 people in FY2013 —including about 440,000 formal removals—the removal and return of such aliens have become important policy issues for Congress, and key issues in recent debates about immigration reform.

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