H E A D L I N E S
* Regional Setbacks
* LIHEAP Appropriations
* Farm-to-School Legislation
* Great Lakes Legacy
Several legislative provisions advanced over the past week will harm northeastern and midwestern states.
* The proposed energy bill, owing to pressure from southern and northwest utility monopolies, restricts the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from advancing competitive wholesale markets and regional transmission coordination. Such coordination is needed to avoid blackouts like the one that recently plagued the Northeast-Midwest. Other energy bill provisions, such as native load provisions and participant funding, are likely to discourage needed investment in the nation's transmission grid.
* Despite appeals from a majority of both the House and Senate, the proposed omnibus appropriation bill slashes the federal government's key manufacturing program by 60 percent. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership has been particularly beneficial to small and mid-sized firms in the Northeast and Midwest.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) on Friday, November 21, offered a motion to instruct the House conferees on the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill to recede to the higher Senate funding levels for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This critical program, which helps low-income families pay for their heating and air conditioning bills, is under-funded by a total of $300 million below the level requested by President Bush in the proposed Labor HHS Appropriations Conference Report.
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) are seeking cosponsors for S. 1755, the Farm-to-Cafeteria Projects Act of 2003 (S. 1755).
As Congress continues its effort to reauthorize federal child nutrition programs, concern has increased across the country about the escalating problem of obesity and preventable nutritional disease in children. S. 1755 seeks to address this crisis with a modest program to bring locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables into school cafeterias through collaborations of farmers, schools, and community organizations. The bill would authorize $10 million annually for grants up to $100,000 to assist with the initial costs of a farm-to-school project. Grants could be used to purchase adequate equipment to store and prepare fresh foods, develop food procurement relationships with nearby farmers, plan seasonal menus and promotional materials, and develop experiential nutrition education related to agriculture.
GREAT LAKES LEGACY ACT
Senate VA-HUD appropriations provided $10 million for the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which is $5 million less than the request by the president. The program helps clean up contaminated sediments. As conference negotiations are settled, details on appropriations important to the region can be found on the Institute's web site.