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CRS — Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014: Comparison of Select Provisions (July 14, 2014)

August 14, 2014 Comments off

Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014: Comparison of Select Provisions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014, P.L. 113-121) became law on June 10, 2014. The conference report, H.Rept. 113-449, resolved differences between H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA 2013), and S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA 2013). Both bills represented omnibus authorization legislation for water resource activities, principally associated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).

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CRS — Specialty Crop Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79) (July 10, 2014)

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Specialty Crop Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79) (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

U.S. farmers grow more than 350 types of fruit, vegetable, tree nut, flower, nursery, and other horticultural crops in addition to the major bulk commodity crops. Specialty crops, defined in statute as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture)” (P.L. 108-465; 7 U.S.C. §1621 note) comprise a major part of U.S. agriculture. In 2012, the value of farm-level specialty crop production totaled nearly $60 billion, representing about one-fourth of the value of U.S. crop production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that retail sales of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables for athome consumption total nearly $100 billion annually. Exports of U.S. specialty crops totaled about $14 billion in 2013, or about 10% of total U.S. agricultural exports.

CRS — Shale Energy Technology Assessment: Current and Emerging Water Practices (July 14, 2014)

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Shale Energy Technology Assessment: Current and Emerging Water Practices (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Shale oil and gas (collectively referred to as shale energy), long considered “unconventional” hydrocarbon resources, are now being developed rapidly. Economic extraction of shale energy resources typically relies on the use of hydraulic fracturing. This technique often requires significant amounts of freshwater, and fracturing flowback and related wastewaters must be recycled or disposed of after a well is completed. While shale energy presents a significant energy resource, its development has the potential to pose risks to water availability and water quality.

CRS — Hunting and Fishing: Issues and Legislation in the 113th Congress (July 7, 2013)

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Hunting and Fishing: Issues and Legislation in the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

For several years, the House and Senate have been considering various approaches to improve hunting and recreational fishing opportunities both on and off of federal lands. The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) is pending in the Senate, and addresses many of the same topics considered by recent Congresses.

Hunting, fishing, and conservation have been linked since the advent of federal wildlife legislation. Among early examples are the Lacey Act of 1900, the first federal wildlife law, which made it a federal crime to ship game killed in violation of one state’s laws to another state, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which regulated the killing, hunting, buying, or selling of migratory birds. Today’s controversies concern, among other things, exactly what hunting, fishing, or shooting sports should be allowed on federal land, and when. S. 2363 seeks to increase the priority of hunting, trapping, fishing, and recreational shooting on federal lands.

CRS — Reducing the Budget Deficit: Overview of Policy Issues (August 7, 2014)

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Reducing the Budget Deficit: Overview of Policy Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The federal budget deficit was the largest it has been since World War II as a percentage of GDP from 2009 to 2012, peaking at 10.1% of GDP. This occurred because spending reached its highest share of GDP since 1945 and revenues reached their lowest share of GDP since 1950. Since then, the deficit has declined to a projected 2.8% of GDP in 2014, which is still above the 1946 to 2008 average. Over the next 25 years, deficits are projected to become very large again under current law.

The recent decline in the deficit is partly due to improvements in the economy, the expiration of temporary measures taken in response to the recession, and spending cuts (mainly to discretionary spending). Spending was cut by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) and the reduction in overseas contingency operations (OCO), primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since September 2008, legislative changes to spending have added a cumulative $1.12 trillion to deficits and legislative changes to revenues, mainly the extension of expiring tax provisions, have added $1.75 trillion to deficits, excluding resulting interest costs.

Looking forward, several uncertainties are inherent in the baseline that may lead to different outcomes than projected. There have been large errors to budget projections historically, in part because economic forecasting is subject to large errors. The budget has also proven to be highly sensitive to recessions, and CBO does not project a recession in its 10-year projection. Budget projections also do not assume any significant changes in spending on future wars or disasters. The baseline projection follows current law, assuming that the “doc fix” and tax “extenders” will expire as scheduled. If Congress temporarily extends either, as it has done regularly in the past, the deficit will be larger than projected.

CRS — Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues (July 30, 2014)

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Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The United States maintains about 285 diplomatic facilities worldwide. Attacks on such facilities, and on U.S. diplomatic personnel, are not infrequent. The deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, along with attacks that week on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen, drew renewed attention to the challenges facing U.S. diplomats abroad, as well as to the difficulty in balancing concerns for their security against the outreach required of their mission. Congress plays a key role in shaping the response to these challenges, such as by providing resources for diplomatic security and examining security breaches overseas.

The inability to provide perfect security, especially against the evident threat of mob violence, has focused particular scrutiny on the deployment of diplomatic personnel in high-threat environments. The Department of State currently maintains a presence in locations faced with security conditions that previously would likely have led State to evacuate personnel and close the post.

CRS — The Help America Vote Act and Election Administration: Overview and Issues (July 31, 2014)

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The Help America Vote Act and Election Administration: Overview and Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The deadlocked November 2000 presidential election focused national attention on previously obscure details of election administration. Even before the U.S. Supreme Court had resolved the election in December, numerous bills to address the failings of the election system were introduced in Congress and state legislatures. The response at the federal level was the Help America Vote Act (HAVA; P.L. 107-252), enacted in 2002. HAVA created the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), established a set of election administration requirements, and provided federal funding, but did not supplant state and local control over election administration. Several issues have arisen or persisted in the years since HAVA was enacted. This report provides background information about HAVA and its provisions, the EAC, funding for the agency and for state programs to improve elections, and a number of enduring election administration issues.

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