"In the News"
The Hill: Dairy supply management bad for consumers
By Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and David Scott (D-Ga.)
June 18, 2013
Plain and simple — the farm bill should not be used as an avenue to increase dairy prices and distort the dairy market. As the House prepares to consider the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act — also known as the farm bill — a new dairy supply management program included in the legislation threatens to push dairy prices higher.
The farm bill being brought to the House floor contains a program called the Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP) that will manipulate and control the supply of milk produced and sold in the United States. This will result in a spike in milk prices and the cost of dairy products like cheese, yogurt and ice cream. As dairy prices are artificially inflated, consumers will be faced with the dilemma of either taking the hit of these high prices or simply avoiding the dairy aisle in the grocery store altogether.
The Consumers Union, Consumers Federation of America, Consumer Action and National Consumers League all oppose the dairy supply management program in the farm bill because it would “increase milk and dairy product prices for consumers.” Increased dairy prices mean that families will be forced to stretch their food budgets further.
In essence, the dairy program passes the bulk of its costs down to the consumer, harming the public economically as well as nutritionally. The federal government purchases 20 percent of domestic milk production for use in anti-hunger programs. If the price of milk goes up due to effects of the program, so will the cost of our nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and the National School Lunch Program. Professor Scott Brown with the University of Missouri recently released a report that showed that under Dairy Market Stabilization Program, monthly milk price spikes could raise school milk costs by more than $13 million for just one month! Our local school districts, families on budgets and taxpayers cannot afford to absorb these increased costs.
It is clear that supply management is bad for consumers.
During the farm bill debate, we will offer an amendment to provide dairy farmers with a viable safety net that does not prop up the price of milk. This amendment strikes the DMSP that limits supply, controls industry growth and meddles in the free market. The reforms in the Goodlatte-Scott amendment will give farmers the necessary tools to manage their risk without requiring them to participate in yet another government program. Our amendment will protect dairy farmers, but also lower costs for families and businesses, as well as keeping nutritional programs viable for those in need.
While the farm bill addresses reforms for numerous facets of our agriculture policy, it fails to adequately reform our country’s dairy program. We can help dairy farmers by providing risk management tools, such as the Dairy Producer Margin Protection Plan included in the Goodlatte-Scott amendment, which would provide help in tough times without negative dairy market consequences.
As we mark National Dairy Month in June, there is no time like the present to reject the Dairy Market Stabilization Program and embrace dairy policies that will keep dairy products affordable for the American people. The Goodlatte-Scott amendment to the farm bill will help dairy producers without forcing the consumer to pick up the bill.
Goodlatte and Scott are members of the House Committee on Agriculture.
Washington Times: GOODLATTE: No command and control for the cows
By Rep. Bob Goodlatte
June 18, 2013
The House is expected to consider this week the reauthorization of the farm bill, a multiyear plan for the future of American farming. While much of the media coverage of the debate in the Senate centered on nutrition programs, an important battle is brewing in the House regarding dairy policy.
As the House Agriculture Committee debated dairy policy, Chairman Frank D. Lucas, Oklahoma Republican, worked with the entire dairy community to eliminate ineffective dairy programs and consolidate them into a margin insurance program that provides an important support backstop for American dairy farmers.
This approach reduces federal bureaucracy by eliminating four current programs — the Dairy Product Price Support Program, the Milk Income Loss Contract Program, the Dairy Export Incentive Program, and the Federal Milk Marketing Order Review Commission — and moves the dairy program to a margin insurance program. These are good reforms and should be embraced as a concrete step toward modernizing the dairy safety net.
Where the true dairy debate begins, however, is over another provision in the farm bill — the Dairy Market Stabilization Program. It is a supply-management program that will directly intervene in markets and increase milk prices, ultimately costing Americans more money at the grocery store and forcing businesses to raise their prices. This program thrusts government directly into private commercial transactions, and will unnecessarily increase prices that families pay for products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Simply put, the program is designed to keep milk at artificially high prices, unfairly hurting consumers and driving up the cost to run a business.
During floor consideration, I will offer an amendment with my Democratic colleague from Georgia, Rep. David Scott, to eliminate the Dairy Market Stabilization Program. Like the base text of the farm bill, the Goodlatte-Scott amendment will eliminate four current dairy programs and move dairy farmers into a margin insurance program, but does so without implementing the new federal supply-management program.
For members just now focusing on the upcoming dairy debate as a part of the farm bill reauthorization, I would note that there is one basic choice to be made on dairy policy. The question on the table will be: Do you support the creation of a new federal supply-management program that will control milk production for American farmers and raise the prices of dairy products, or not? Both the farm bill and the Goodlatte-Scott amendment make much-needed base reforms to existing dairy policy and move toward a margin insurance program. The only real difference between the two is whether or not you support market intervention.
Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office has determined that implementing the program will cost more than moving forward with the Goodlatte-Scott amendment. With all of the great reforms made in the farm bill, why would the House support the creation of a new bureaucratic program to control the production of American dairy farmers, and at a greater cost than the alternative?
Let’s move away from 1930s-style command-and-control supply-management programs and toward a system that encourages the production of American dairy products for domestic and international distribution. I encourage my colleagues to support the Goodlatte-Scott amendment to the farm bill to eliminate the Dairy Market Stabilization Program and support dairy farmers and consumers.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, is a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and currently chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Fox News: House Republicans challenge Holder testimony on reporter surveillance
May 29, 2013
Top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee openly challenged Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday over his testimony two weeks ago in which he claimed to be unaware of any "potential prosecution" of the press, despite knowing about an investigation that targeted a Fox News reporter.
Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., R-Wis., voiced "great concern" in a letter to Holder. They asked a litany of questions about the department's dealings with the press, and pointedly alleged that the Fox News case "contradicts" his testimony at a May 15 hearing.
"It is imperative that the committee, the Congress, and the American people be provided a full and accurate account of your involvement," they wrote.
The letter comes a day after the committee confirmed it was looking into Holder's testimony. Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee on May 15, Holder insisted that "the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material" is not something he was involved in or knew about.
But days later, it emerged that the Justice Department obtained access to the emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen -- after filing an affidavit that accused him of being a likely criminal "co-conspirator" in the leak of sensitive material regarding North Korea. Rosen was never charged, and never prosecuted. But he was effectively accused of violating the federal Espionage Act.
"The media reports and statements issued by the Department regarding the search warrants for Mr. Rosen's emails appear to be at odds with your sworn testimony before the Committee," Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner wrote in the letter Wednesday. They did not accuse Holder of committing perjury, but noted he was "under oath."
Among other questions, they asked Holder how he could claim to have never heard of the potential prosecution of the press. And they asked him to clarify whether he "personally approved" the search warrant request. Sensenbrenner, in an interview on Fox News, threatened to subpoena Holder to come before the committee if necessary.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, though, said on Wednesday that it appears Holder testified truthfully. He said President Obama "absolutely" has confidence in him.
The top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, said he thinks Holder "was forthright and did not mislead the Committee."
"Certainly, there are policy disagreements as to how the First Amendment should apply to these series of leak investigations being conducted by the Justice Department, and that is and should be an area for the committee to consider. However, there is no need to turn a policy disagreement into allegations of misconduct," he said.
Holder could argue that, in fact, Rosen was never prosecuted -- and so his testimony was not misleading.
A federal law enforcement official said last week that the department had to establish probable cause in the affidavit in order to obtain the search warrant, per the terms of the Privacy Protection Act.
"Saying that there is probable cause to believe that someone has committed a crime and actually charging the person with that crime are two very different things," the official said.
Meanwhile, one of the country's most prominent liberal legal scholars called Wednesday for Holder to be "fired," joining the growing list of left-leaning pundits slamming his department's pursuit of journalists' phone and email records.
Jonathan Turley, an attorney and law professor at George Washington University, hammered Holder in a USA Today column Wednesday. He charged that Holder has "supervised a comprehensive erosion of privacy rights, press freedom and due process," aided by Democrats who looked the other way.
But in the wake of the reporter records scandal, Democrats are starting to join with Republicans in questioning whether Holder continues to be the right man to lead the Department of Justice in President Obama's second term.
Turley, in his column, referenced a recent call by the Republican National Committee chairman for Holder's resignation. "Unlike the head of the RNC, I am neither a Republican nor conservative, and I believe Holder should be fired," Turley wrote.
While Democrats largely defended Holder when his department came under fire for the botched anti-gunrunning sting Operation Fast and Furious, they've been less forgiving over the move this year to seize two months of phone records from Associated Press offices. That bombshell was compounded by the revelation that the department seized phone and email records for Fox News offices. The scandal grew as the department acknowledged Friday that Holder was involved in the court document that accused Rosen of being a likely criminal "co-conspirator," as part of the department's successful argument for obtaining a search warrant for Rosen's emails.
According to a report in The Daily Beast, aides say Holder has started to feel regret for the investigations. Under Obama's direction, he is starting a review of DOJ policies and meeting with representatives from the media.
A Justice Department official said Wednesday that Holder will hold meetings with several Washington bureau chiefs of national news organizations over the next two days.
"These meetings will begin a series of discussions that will continue to take place over the coming weeks. During these sessions, the Attorney General will engage with a diverse and representative group of news media organizations, including print, wires, radio, television, online media and news and trade associations," the official said.
Turley, in his column, scoffed at this course of action, since Holder was involved in the surveillance -- at least the surveillance involving Fox News -- in the first place. "Such an inquiry offers no reason to trust its conclusions," Turley wrote.
He described Holder as a trusted Obama "sin eater," swallowing the worst criticisms to shield the president.
"Indeed, these sins should be fatal for any attorney general," Turley wrote.
Roanoke Times Opinion Page: Goodlatte's ethanol bill makes good sense
May 30, 2013
In an op-ed published April 24 (“The fuel standard is working”), Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America, argued that the Renewable Fuel Standard should not be reformed by Congress.
This recommendation disregards an important fact: The RFS increases food prices for every American. The economics are simple. The RFS creates a government-mandated demand for corn to be processed into ethanol at an ever-increasing volume, regardless of consumer demand, and more importantly, independent of the supply of corn.
Last year, despite a severe drought that ravaged corn supplies, more than 40 percent of the domestic corn crop went to the production of ethanol instead of food. The results were devastating for livestock farmers and American consumers. Since 2005, corn prices have increased 300 percent due to the insatiable demand of this government program.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th District, understands that the RFS is hurting American farmers and consumers, and has introduced legislation to fix the problem. His legislation is a common-sense solution that eliminates the disruptive mandate for corn ethanol while allowing advanced ethanol to continue. Goodlatte’s bill will eliminate a government mandate that has caused higher food costs for everyone. This is an effort every American can support.
Executive Vice President & Chief Sustainability Officer
Smithfield Foods Inc.
WSET: Preparing Roanoke Students for High-Tech World
By Mark Kelly
April 22, 2013
Roanoke, VA - Students at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Roanoke got a special visit Monday: Congressman Bob Goodlatte showed up, and talked with kids about the Internet.
Rep. Goodlatte talked about how important the Internet is for creating jobs, even telling students his own son once worked at Facebook.
Stonewall Jackson has partnered with a company called Neustar which teaches kids the online skills they'll need in today's high-tech world.
But, Goodlatte reminded students that with the Internet's freedom comes responsibility.
"What they post up on Facebook or tweet to their friends isn't just going to their friends. Sometimes, it's going to the rest of the world, and it may be going there forever," said Rep Goodlatte (R) 6th District.
If you are interested in Neustar and what it can do in your classroom, click here.
Wall Street Journal: An Ethanol Spring
By Editorial Board
April 17, 2013
When Churchill said Americans do the right thing after exhausting all the other options, he was unacquainted with modern Washington. But every now and again that maxim turns out to be true, and so it may be this year with ethanol.
A growing right-left bicoastal coalition is loosening the ethanol lobby's thrall over U.S. politics, and now it may succeed in introducing some rationality to the renewable fuels mandate that passed amid the George W. Bush energy panic in 2007.
Back then everyone assumed domestic gasoline demand would rise to almost 150 billion gallons in 2012 and 155 billion this year. The irony is that 2007 marked the peak of U.S. demand. Last year the country used merely 89% of that projection, and 2013 will probably come in at 80%, or 124 billion gallons. The decline is due mainly to slow economic growth and better fuel economy.
But the 2007 mandate still requires that certain volumes of ethanol be blended into the gas supply each year, with the amount rising over time, which means that more gallons of ethanol are chasing fewer gallons of gas. These quotas will soon force the ethanol to gas ratio to blow past 10%.
Exceeding this per gallon limit harms consumers, who are forced to buy more of product that is less energy efficient yet is also more expensive. Every one-cent increase at the pump steals about $1 billion from the larger economy that consumers would have otherwise saved or spent on something else. Ethanol mixtures above 10% are also unsafe, damaging engines and exhaust systems in older cars and trucks, as well as everything from boats to wood chippers and well pumps.
The Ethanol Promotion Agency—er, the Environmental Protection Agency—could have modified this year's ethanol quotas to reflect market conditions, but it didn't. That decision defies a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling this January vacating part of the 2012 mandate, so reformers in Congress are now moving to intervene.
This month Democrats Jim Costa of California and Peter Welch of Vermont and Republicans Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Steve Womack of Arkansas introduced a bill that would eliminate the specific volume mandates and simply cap ethanol at 10% a gallon. The mandate would then float with gas consumption—still a genuflection to the farm belt but far better than the status quo.
Their proposal would also declare that ethanol is ethanol, regardless of type, erasing the EPA's artificial mandate distinctions for corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and more. Most of these fuels are not commercially available and may never exist.
Over in the Senate, Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden—an ethanol supporter—conceded last week at a Georgetown conference that "I'm not convinced that the current requirements are achievable" and said his panel would spend "a lot of time" rethinking renewable fuels.
Other reasons for optimism? We count ourselves students of Bob Dinneen, the Renewable Fuels Association lobby president whose rhetorical stridency tends to be inversely proportional to his political prospects. Mr. Dinneen has recently accused ethanol opponents of "living in a fantasy parallel universe" and attacked the House bill as "backwards, silly, circular logic." He's worried it could pass.
The Examiner: Biofuel bill seeks to end ‘unsustainable’ EPA ethanol mandate
By Michal Conger
April 11, 2013
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday that would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel standard, which the group said creates an artificial market for ethanol that harms the economy.
“The federal government’s creation of an artificial market for the ethanol industry has quite frankly triggered a domino effect that is hurting American consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, food manufacturers, and retailers,” the congressmen said at a press conference.
The RFS Reform Act, introduced by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Steve Womack (R-Ariz.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) would eliminate corn-based ethanol requirements, cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline at 10 percent and require EPA to set its cellulosic biofuel standard at production levels.
“Renewable fuels play an important role in our all-of-the-above energy policy, but should compete fairly in the marketplace and not be the beneficiary of an anti-competitive government mandate,” said Goodlatte.
Sign Up for the Politics Digest newsletter!
In 2011, five billion bushels of corn – nearly 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop — was used for ethanol.
The EPA’s targets for renewable fuels is overly ambitious, according to Costa’s office. EPA’s target for cellulosic biofuels, for instance, is higher than the amount of cellulosic biofuels that actually exist.
“When these non-existent fuels cannot be blended refiners are financially penalized, which ultimately gets passed on to consumers at the pump,” Costa said in a statement.
“The debate is over; the Renewable Fuel Standard as we know it is not sustainable,” he added.
Renewable fuels receive a large share of energy tax incentives, even though they produce less energy than fossil fuels.
“Renewable energy is expected to receive a 44 percent share of total federal energy tax preference incentives in 2013, while fossil fuels are expected to receive a 20 percent share but are expected to produce more than 7 times the energy,” according to the Institute for Energy Research.
The energy industry was quick to praise the proposal on Wednesday.
“The Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act recognizes that betting on the RFS to work is like betting against reality, eventually you lose,” said Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. “The RFS was founded upon baseless assumptions and now eight years later, the reality is that there is no fix for this broken program, which is why AFPM fully supports the elimination legislation.”
The ethanol industry was not as positive about the proposal.
“Killing the corn ethanol provisions of the RFS and prohibiting consumers from having the option to buy E15 don’t constitute ‘reform,’ they are heavy-handed government regulations coming from members of Congress who apparently don’t like how the RFS ensures competition in the fuel market,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol.
“This is just a smokescreen for going after the one alternative fuel and the one policy that has fundamentally disrupted oil industry control of the marketplace while saving consumers money at the pump,” the Advanced Ethanol Council said in a statement.
Farm Futures: Renewable Fuel Standard Debate Heats Up Again
April 11, 2013
Four U.S. Representatives Wednesday introduced legislation that would alter the RFS by eliminating corn-based ethanol requirements, capping the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10%, and requiring the EPA to set cellulosic biofuels levels at production levels.
Reps. Steve Womack, R-Ark., Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Jim Costa, D-Calif. and Peter Welch, D-Vt., announced the "RFS Reform Act" with the support of more than 40 consumer and agricultural organizations.
According to 2013 Renewable Fuels Standard requirements, 13.9 billion gallons of ethanol should be blended into gasoline in 2013 – a value that livestock groups say puts too much pressure on corn supplies.
CORN COMPETITION: Livestock and poultry groups aren't happy with the RFS mandates; ethanol producers say the industry provides service to livestock producers
"Cattlemen and women are self-reliant, but in order to maintain that we cannot be asked to compete with federal mandates like the Renewable Fuels Standard for the limited supply of feed grains," said National Cattlemen's Beef Association Policy Vice Chair Craig Uden.
NCBA and the National Pork Producers Council last fall urged the EPA to waive the RFS in light of extreme drought conditions and concerns that the corn supply would be able to handle pressure from ethanol markets and livestock feeders.
"It is clear, when EPA is unable to provide even a temporary waiver of the RFS during the worst drought in 70 years to assure adequate feed and food supplies, that something is broken and needs to be fixed," said NPPC President Randy Spronk.
The National Chicken Council, too, has said that corn supplies are not ready to handle the increased demand from ethanol markets. NCC President Mike Brown noted that from the view of the NCC, the RFS artificially inflates the price of corn and the new legislation, he says, levels the playing field by "embracing free market principles."
But ethanol advocates aren't so sure about the arguments of livestock producers. Jeff Broin, Co-chairman of the Board for ethanol group Growth Energy, said in a press call Wednesday that corn prices are changing partly due to loss of government subsidies for grain production.
"[Food and livestock] industries were able to buy subsidized grain for about 50 years and I'm sure they liked that – having the government pay for half of their input costs," Broin said. He added that ethanol production doesn't simply compete with livestock for the same grain, but instead offers producers an affordable by-product, dried distillers grains.
Additionally, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis argued, ethanol production does not require 40% of corn crop as publicized by livestock groups.
"That's a gross number, not a net number because of the displacement of the proteins from corn after starch is extracted, and the displacement of soybean meal," Buis said.
The Growth Energy press conference was part of a larger set of scheduled meetings with members of Congress to answer questions about the ethanol industry.
The group also expressed concern that a repeal or alteration of the RFS would push back ethanol advancements and create uncertainty for producers, marketers and ultimately the consumer.
"Any changes to the program would have a devastating effect, creating uncertainty in the marketplace and halting investment in new technologies for biofuel production," Buis said.
"Not only is this legislation short sighted," he added, "it prevents free market access for a price competitive product."
The legislators' bill is supported by: ActionAid USA, the American Frozen Food Institute, the American Meat Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Environmental Working Group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Milk Producers Council, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Chicken Council, the National Council of Chain Restaurants, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the National Restaurant Association, the National Taxpayers Union, the National Turkey Federation, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, and Taxpayers for Commonsense.
E&E News: Bills to reform, repeal RFS introduced in the House
By Amanda Peterka
April 11, 2013
Standing in front of the Capitol yesterday, flanked by bipartisan supporters, a Republican lawmaker rolled out a reform bill aimed at cutting the targets set in the renewable fuel standard and removing corn ethanol's eligibility for credit.
The same lawmaker also then quietly introduced legislation that would completely repeal the standard, which U.S. EPA uses to set yearly levels of ethanol and advanced biofuel.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said he is not opposed to renewable fuels but believes they "should compete fairly in the marketplace."
"The RFS debate is no longer just a debate about fuel or food," Goodlatte said. "It is also a debate about jobs, small business, and economic growth. The federal government's creation of an artificial market for the ethanol industry has, quite frankly, triggered a domino effect that is hurting American consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, food manufacturers and retailers."
It was widely expected that Goodlatte would introduce his reform measure, which has the backing of Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).
The bill would reduce the overall renewable fuel standard requirements by more than 40 percent, from 36 billion gallons a year by 2022 to 21 billion gallons. The measure would also cut corn ethanol out of eligibility in the standard and cap the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline at 10 percent.
It would also compel EPA to base its annual cellulosic biofuel targets on the previous year's actual production, addressing complaints by the oil industry that the agency is penalizing refiners for not using a fuel that is not yet widespread in the market.
"This legislation will bring the fundamental reform this unworkable federal policy needs now," Goodlatte said.
Goodlatte's goal, though, is complete repeal of the standard, which would be accomplished in another measure he introduced yesterday with less fanfare than the reform measure.
It is unlikely Congress will pass either bill, though; despite the calls to change the RFS, the biofuels mandate still has strong backing from lawmakers from the major farm states. Reform, though, has more bipartisan support and would likely be more politically feasible than repeal.
Oil industry groups are backing the repeal measure, while the reform bill has support from than 40 environmental, anti-hunger, livestock, small-engine manufacturers and right-leaning fiscal groups.
"It is clear, when EPA is unable to provide even a temporary waiver of the RFS during the worst drought in 70 years to assure adequate feed and food supplies, that something is broken and needs to be fixed," said National Pork Producers Council President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn.
Biofuels organizations and supporters urged Congress not to gut the standard.
"Rep. Goodlatte's bill would keep gas prices at the mercy of global oil markets and rob consumers of clean, competitive fuels," a coalition of biofuels, agriculture and national security interests said.
Politico: Excessive waste at Department of Justice
By Chairman Bob Goodlatte
April 10, 2013
As the March 1 sequestration deadline approached, Attorney General Eric Holder dramatically warned that the Justice Department would be forced to make cuts that threaten the safety of all Americans. Holder claimed that cuts to the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service, and U.S. Attorneys Office would diminish the department’s ability to investigate and prosecute crimes. He also warned that budget reductions at the Bureau of Prisons could lead to lockdowns and violence.
However, a line-by-line look at spending patterns at the DOJ reveals many areas of wasteful spending, suggesting that these ominous threats are part of a scare-tactic narrative to promote the Obama administration’s political agenda. If the administration would set aside the theatrics, government officials could use this opportunity to root out waste and redundancy that divert resources from the department’s critical missions.
The House Judiciary Committee has examined recent spending trends at the DOJ and has found several examples of wasteful and duplicative spending, all of which are paid for by taxpayers. Here are just a few examples.
Instead of prison breaks, prisons break budget: Despite the clear disapproval from Congress last year, the DOJ purchased an unused prison in Illinois. The department spent $165 million to purchase this prison, even though the Bureau of Prisons already had four brand-new federal prisons sitting empty and waiting to be put to use. In addition to the initial $165 million, this unauthorized purchase continues to cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. It has been estimated that it will cost $6 million a year to secure the empty prison and an additional $70 million before it is even operational.
Looking good for Hollywood: Tax dollars are also used at the department to help the entertainment industry. The FBI has its own Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit, which is dedicated to helping Hollywood make movies and TV shows, including “The Kingdom,” “Fast and Furious 4,” “CSI,” “Numb3rs” and “Without a Trace.” This perk for Hollywood comes with an annual price tag of $1.5 million to the American taxpayer.
Meet and greets: In addition, the DOJ staff hosted numerous conferences around the country. In 2010 alone, the department spent nearly $100 million on conferences, which is twice what was spent two years earlier. This includes more than $600,000 in event-planner costs for five conferences, even though the need for this was not shown.
The food at these conferences was also exorbitant. For example, coffee and tea cost from 62 cents to $1.03 an ounce. At the $1.03-per-ounce price, a 12-ounce cup of coffee would have cost $12.36!
Come fly with me: Political appointees at the DOJ also use millions of taxpayer dollars for personal travel. According to the Government Accountability Office, both the attorney general and FBI director spent more than $11 million on luxury private jets for nonmission trips from 2007 through 2011. The attorney general took more than 28 percent of these flights for personal reasons.
Pizza time: DOJ grants to state and local entities have also proved to be wasteful. Just this month, the Office of the Inspector General released an audit of grants given to Hartford, Conn. The Hartford Police Department used $10,000 of its grant funding for a pizza party and plaques. The Judiciary Committee has asked the DOJ to explain how pizza could cost $10,000, but this request has gone unanswered.
Duplicative and overlapping programs: A GAO report from July 2012 found that there is a huge amount of duplication and overlap in grants awarded by DOJ. For example, there are 56 programs that provide funds to victim assistance and research; 41 that provide technology for forensics; 33 that provide funds for juvenile justice; 23 that provide funds for enhanced policing; 21 that provide funds to assist courts; 20 that provide funds for correction and re-entry; and 17 that provide funds for community crime and prevention.
These are just some of the many examples of inefficient and redundant spending at the DOJ. With the release of the White House fiscal year 2014 budget on Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will continue to look for ways to reduce wasteful spending in the DOJ.
While the attorney general and other administration officials play up the effects of the automatic spending cuts on the government’s core duties, the real story is that our government throws away taxpayer dollars on nonessential items every day. With our national debt more than $16 trillion, we simply cannot afford to drink $12 coffees and help Hollywood make movies. Spending is the problem, and it’s essential that our nation get its fiscal house in order.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Agri-Pulse: Goodlatte introduces new bill to alter RFS
By Sarah Gonzalez
April 10, 2013
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2013- Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., led a bipartisan group of lawmakers today in introducing legislation to eliminate the conventional biofuels mandate of the Renewable Fuels Act (RFS) and cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into the fuel supply.
“The federal government’s creation of an artificial market for the ethanol industry has quite frankly triggered a domino effect that is hurting American consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, food manufacturers, and retailers,” Goodlatte said.
The RFS Reform Act, sponsored by Goodlatte, Jim Costa, D-Calif., Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., is supported by the major beef, pork and poultry lobbies. The RFS Reform Act would eliminate the corn-based ethanol requirements and cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent. Also, it would require the EPA to set cellulosic biofuel levels at production levels.
National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Pam Johnson said “America’s corn farmers stand strong against this attack on the RFS” in a statement today.
“Close analysis of claims that ethanol production, and thus the RFS, drive up consumer food costs prove false,” Johnson argued. “While some sectors of the nation’s food supply have seen price increases over the past year, many other sectors which also rely on corn, including milk, turkey and pork prices, have fallen.”
According to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data released on last week’s ethanol production, ethanol production averaged 35.87 million gallons daily, which completes the largest week-to-week increase since October 2011.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels be part of our nation’s fuel supply by 2022. During a press conference today, Goodlatte said almost all of this is currently being fulfilled by corn ethanol and, in 2011, 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop was used for ethanol.
With the backing of more than 40 organizations, he added, “Renewable fuels play an important role in our energy policy but should compete fairly in the marketplace. This legislation will bring the fundamental reform this unworkable federal policy needs now.”
Among other groups, the American Meat Institute, the Environmental Working Group, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the National Chicken Council (NCC) support the legislation.
After the 2012 drought, NCBA and NPPC asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) to implement a provision of the RFS that waives the biofuels mandate, but the agency determined corn production conditions didn’t require the “safety valve” provision.
“It is clear, when EPA is unable to provide even a temporary waiver of the RFS during the worst drought in 70 years to assure adequate feed and food supplies, that something is broken and needs to be fixed,” said NPPC President Randy Spronk today.
According to NCC President Mike Brown, since the RFS was enacted, chicken producers alone have incurred $35 billion in cumulative additional feed costs.
"We have witnessed a dozen poultry companies file for bankruptcy, be sold or simply close their doors, due in large part to the extreme volatility and record high cost of corn associated with ethanol's insatiable demand," he said.
In defense of the current RFS, NCGA’s Johnson said since its passage into law in 2005, the standard “has helped rebuild rural America, allowing our children to come back to the farm and supporting many businesses in our communities.”
“Additionally, the ethanol industry contributed more than $42 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2011, generated nearly $30 billion in household income and saved consumers a minimum of 25 cents per gallon at the pump,” said Johnson.
Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said the legislation is in response to oil companies’ fears of a competitive product in E15. “While E15 is a voluntary choice for consumers and retailers, oil companies know that E15’s savings and superior performance will cut into their bottom line and they will do everything they can to stop it,” he said.
NCC’s Brown claimed the chicken producers he represents “are certainly not anti-corn; and we're not even anti-ethanol.”
“What we are against is a government mandate that artificially inflates the price of corn, picks winners and punishes losers among those who depend on it,” he said, adding that the RFS Reform Act introduced today would “level the playing field” by embracing free market principles.
The Hill: Lawmakers look to move biofuel bill through House Energy Committee
By Zack Colman
April 10, 2013
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is having discussions with the chairman of the House Energy Committee about bringing forward legislation to gut a federal biofuel law.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), a bill co-sponsor, said his talks with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have left him “hopeful” about securing a hearing.
“There is growing support throughout the Congress,” Goodlatte said during a Wednesday news conference, with primary co-sponsors Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and others.
The bill, which was introduced Wednesday, would eliminate a mandate to blend 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol into transportation fuel by 2022, while leaving intact the 21 billion gallon mark for next-generation biofuels.
The bill also would ban fuel with an ethanol content greater than 10 percent, and require federal blending targets for next-generation biofuels to be set at actual production levels.
It’s the latest in a full-throttle campaign by oil-and-gas, food and green groups to tear down the renewable fuel standard (RFS).
Many on Capitol Hill are also giving the mandate a hard look.
In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation, Upton and Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the House Energy Committee’s top Democrat, last month released the first of five white papers on the mandate.
Waxman recently told The Hill that the papers were exploratory, and that the committee hasn’t identified a legislative vehicle for changes. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the chairman of the Energy and Power subcommittee, said the same.
The rule’s opponents, which range from the Environmental Working Group to the American Petroleum Institute (API), have grabbed lawmakers’ ears through an aggressive lobbying campaign.
API, which wants to repeal the entire rule, is leading the charge.
The oil-and-gas lobby is ramping up its efforts because the refining industry is approaching a so-called “blend wall.” The term refers to a need to blend fuels with a higher ethanol concentration to meet the law’s accelerating targets.
To cross that wall, the biofuel industry is trying to increase the market presence of a blend with a 15-percent ethanol concentration, known as E15. Standard fuel has a 10 percent ethanol concentration.
But API, automakers and boat manufacturers say E15 damages car engines.
Many automakers say warranties won’t cover such damage, despite the Environmental Protection Agency saying it’s safe for models made in 2001 or later.
Environmental groups and meat and poultry producers, meanwhile, want to dismantle the mandate’s corn-ethanol portion — which dominates the biofuel market — because they say it drives up food costs.
Welch said the biofuel rule has been a failure for both the environment and agriculture, both of which it was meant to help.
“It’s been brutal. So this was an idea that was, I will acknowledge, well-intended. But the evidence says it was very, very dumb,” Welch said.
Despite its vocal opponents and the flurry of bills in the legislative pipeline, the biofuel industry maintains it’s comfortable with its position.
“Intense attacks” in recent weeks have been “often based on misinformation,” Tom Buis, chief executive of biofuel trade group Growth Energy, said during a Wednesday press call.
Buis and other biofuel groups have cast API’s attacks as a way to preserve market share for petroleum in the face of increasing vehicle fuel economy standards and a sluggish economy.
Buis added that the argument that corn ethanol increases corn prices is incorrect, noting a good portion of it is recycled into feed for livestock. He also maintained that E15 is safe for cars.
Several of the group’s members are meeting with Midwestern lawmakers — who are generally staunch biofuel backers — on Wednesday and Thursday to secure support.
“When we educate policymakers, they get it, and they understand it. And I’m confident that we will be able to beat back the attempt by API, which has made the repeal of the RFS their No. 1 priority,” Buis said.
News & Advance: Goodlatte sponsors legislation to eliminate ethanol mandate
By Ray Reed
April 10, 2013
Rep. Robert Goodlatte, who usually criticizes the federal ethanol mandate during his appearances around the 6th District, sponsored legislation Wednesday to eliminate the requirement or at least change it.
The Republican congressman, who represents the farm and poultry-rich Shenandoah Valley, said the ethanol order known as the Renewable Fuel Standard “is not working.”
“Today, I introduced the RFS Elimination Act, which eliminates the RFS and makes ethanol compete in a free market,” Goodlatte said.
He also sponsored an RFS Reform Act, an alternative bill to cap the ethanol used in gasoline at 10 percent.
He said either bill “would give relief to livestock and food producers as well as consumers of these products.”
Joining Goodlatte in sponsoring the bills were Reps. Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Steve Womack, R-Ark.; and Peter Welch, D-Vt.
The ethanol mandate benefits corn producers, primarily in the Midwest.
Goodlatte argues it inflates the price of livestock feed and consumer food products and said more than 150 House members from both parties oppose the RFS.
Ethanol-industry spokesmen said the distilled-alcohol fuel blend helps control the price of gasoline.
They said the Goodlatte legislation is backed by the oil industry, which opposes competition from ethanol.
Jack Gerard, CEO of the oil-industry advocate American Petroleum Institute, welcomed the bills. Gerard said the ethanol mandate “could put consumers in harm’s way, hurt the economy, and disrupt the nation’s fuel supply.”
Roanoke Times: 44 made new citizens ‘of this great nation’
By David Ress
March 23, 2013
Practically skipping through the courtroom, a huge smile on her face, Josephine Nzeyimana turned, held up the elaborately engraved certificate that declared she is a citizen, and — if possible — smiled even more, so a friend could snap a photo of her big day.
The Virginia Western Community College nursing student in the sunny orange dress was one of 44 people from 29 countries who became U.S. citizens Friday.
Some were solemn. Some, shy. But most couldn’t keep from smiling.
Sukasom Na Songkhla, making his way to his seat in the U.S. District courtroom, flashed a shy smile as he showed his son Tinai, 5, the citizenship certificate that Judge James Turk had just handed him, along with the small American flag that was a gift to the new citizens from the Gen. James Breckinridge Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Songkhla said he studied every night for two months before taking the civics test required of all people seeking citizenship.
The test consists of 10 questions drawn randomly from a list of 100, ranging from one about the powers the Constitution says belong to the states, to one about the longest rivers in the country, to one about the names of U.S. territories.
For Songkhla it had been a long 10 years to get from Thailand to the point of being able to take the test.
“I was pretty nervous,” he said.
He got a perfect score.
It’s not easy to become a citizen, and not everyone who comes to the United States takes that step, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, told the new Americans.
“Thank you so much for taking the time and the effort to become a U.S. citizen,” he said.
“I’m just glad to be here,” Alexander Cosmos Kipkosgei Sang, grinning happily and sporting a bright American-flag tie, told the more than 100 people who gathered for the ceremony.
Sang, originally from Kenya, thanked his wife and in-laws for helping him make a new home here.
But perhaps it was the soft-spoken Duraisamy Sureshkumar who spoke for all 44 when, after Turk asked the new citizens if they had anything to say, she stood, and quietly declared: “It is a blessing to be in the family of this great nation.”
Daily News Record: Goodlatte: Unlock those phones
By Preston Knight
March 22, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Answering the call of more than 114,000 people nationwide, 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte has filed legislation to allow cellphone customers to “unlock” their devices so they can join another network.
The Roanoke congressman has announced his support of a pair of phone-related bills in the past week, including one that would restore consumers’ ability to unlock devices and switch wireless providers.
That bill falls under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee, which Goodlatte, a Republican, chairs.
Called the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, the legislation permits cellphone owners to unlock phones without a carrier’s permission, as long as they meet contractual requirements.
Earlier this month, the White House agreed with a petition signed by more than 114,000 people that phones should be unlocked without a carrier’s consent. The action was banned Jan. 26 because the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress view it as copyright infringement.
Phone carriers offer free or discounted devices to get consumers to join their cellphone plans, locking the phones into that network. Users cannot jump to another network with the same phone unless their devices are unlocked by their original carrier.
A code is needed from a service provider to unlock a phone.
For the petitioners, a major complaint is that when people travel overseas, they face expensive roaming charges unless access to another phone carrier is available.
“[Locking] reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full,” the petition reads.
Phone carriers prefer tying people into their own network so they can get consumers to complete contracts, which are usually for two years. The carriers, as noted in the petition, state that they are also offering more unlocked phones that can work on any network.
But Goodlatte says his legislation is necessary to protect consumer choice. It does not change any contractual obligations between consumers and carriers, he said.
“It’s perfectly reasonable that you have to stay in the contract. You can’t just leave the contract,” he said in a phone interview. “After the contract is up or if you’re let out of a contract, you should be able to [unlock].”
Bipartisan legislation identical to Goodlatte’s was filed in the Senate earlier this month.
Phone Subsidy Run Its Course?
On Wednesday, Goodlatte announced that he was also co-sponsor of the Stop Taxpayer Funded Cell Phone Act, which would end a program started in 1984 that subsidizes one wired service per household for low-income residents.
In 2008, the program expanded to wireless services, which has raised costs to $1.75 billion — from the $822 million it was before the certification of the first wireless carrier, Goodlatte said.
The program has gone “way beyond” its original purpose by handing out cellphones, in some cases, he said, to people who are not eligible.
Roanoke Times: Rep. Bob Goodlatte backs bill to unlock cellphones
By David Ress
March 15, 2013
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, is sponsoring a bill that would let mobile phone users unlock their devices in order to switch from one wireless carrier to another.
Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is joining with senior Democrats on the committee to sponsor the bill.
The legislation also asks the Copyright Office to report on whether similar treatment should be given to other wireless devices.
"This bipartisan legislation is focused on protecting consumer choice," Goodlatte said. "By restoring the cell phone exemption, the power is put back in the hands of the consumer."
The bill, HR 1123, restores an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allowed people to freely unlock their phones once they had fulfilled their contracts. The exemption was allowed to expire for phones purchased after Jan. 26, 2013.
News and Advance: Goodlatte bill would make cell phone unlocking legal again
March 14, 2013
U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th District, has introduced a bill to make it legal again to unlock cell phones, a practice that allows consumers to switch wireless carriers.
Unlocking cell phones had been allowed under an exemption in a federal copyright-protection law until October, when the Librarian of Congress overturned the exemption and made it illegal to unlock phones purchased after Jan. 26.
Goodlatte’s bill would restore the exemption and would ask the U.S. Copyright Office to look at policies about unlocking other wireless devices as well.
“This bipartisan legislation is focused on protecting consumer choice,” Goodlatte said in a news release.
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this week, Goodlatte said.
R. David Edelman, who is President Barack Obama’s senior advisor for Internet, Innovation and Privacy, has said unlocking should be legal for smart phones and tablets alike.
In a response earlier this month to an online petition on the White House’s website that drew more than 100,000 signatures, Edelman said that “if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network.”
Edelman said the White House will work with the Federal Communications Commission to address the issue and will also support new legislation.
ABC News/Univision: An Immigration Hawk Strikes a New Tone in the House
By Ted Hesson
March 13, 2013
When Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) took over as chairman of a key House committee related to immigration this November, immigrant rights activists weren't exactly enthused.
America's Voice, a group that lobbies for immigration reform, wrote on its website that "it looks like Goodlatte is going to be a committed anti-immigrant extremist," pointing out that the congressman had earned an "A+" rating from the immigration-restrictionist group NumbersUSA. Among the pieces of legislation that Goodlatte had sponsored to earn the rating was a bill seeking to limit birthright citizenship, which is granted by the U.S. Constitution.
Now, months later, Goodlatte is intriguing some pro-immigration groups with his approach and tenor as chairman of the House judiciary committee. The panel oversees immigration issues, and has recently held hearings on the immigration reform push underway in Congress. Should the House operate under its regular rules, the body also has the ability to kill an immigration bill.
"Well, I'm a little bit surprised, to say the least, at some of the more recent hearings," said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director at America's Voice.
Compared with immigration hearings under the previous chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the tone is more centrist and the panels of witnesses are more balanced, she said.
"I think it's interesting that they're having a more open discussion of the topic," Tramonte said.
The executive director of another pro-reform group, National Immigration Forum, gave the congressman more direct praise.
"I think that Chairman Goodlatte is engaging in an intellectually honest process to arrive at a position on immigration reform, but also bringing his colleagues along with him," said Ali Noorani. "Gone are the days of Steve King and Tom Tancredo throwing lightning bolts from the dais."
Goodlatte inherits the judiciary committee at a challenging time for conservative immigration hawks. Since President Barack Obama won reelection with 71 percent of the Latino vote in November, Republican leaders been more receptive to passing immigration reform to help bridge the divide to the Latino electorate. Prominent GOP senators, including Florida's Marco Rubio and Arizona's John McCain, are working on an immigration reform bill with Democrats, and are committed to what would have been anathema a few years ago: a path to citizenship for the many of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants.
House Republicans have been markedly more reserved in embracing immigration reform, but Goodlatte