August 2, 2015

Export-Import Bank revival could become part of highway bill

Congressman Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith

The fate of the Export-Import Bank could be tied to a long-term transportation bill.

The Senate included reviving the bank in its six-year $350 billion highway bill that will not be taken up by the House until September.

Congressman Adrian Smith says if the Export-Import Bank is to be revived, it should undergo change.

“Bare minimum: there needs to be significant reforms in Ex-Im,” according to Smith. “So far, I don’t have a lot of colleagues who resist that notion.”

The Export-Import Bank provides low-interest loans to help U.S. agriculture and companies to sell their goods and services overseas. Its charter expired at the end of June.

Smith says the future of the bank is uncertain.

“Yes, it has officially expired and yet there are some contracts still in place that will last some time, protecting us, some of the exporters as well. I would hope that we can find some solutions, though,” Smith says.

Sen. Deb Fischer voted for the Senate transportation package, but not for the amendment that added revival of the Export-Import Bank to it.

“I did not vote for that amendment that passed and was attached to the bill, but this is a case when you have two houses in Congress, it offers those opportunities that if the House doesn’t want it in the House won’t put it in,” Fischer says.

Highway funding has been extended for three months as the House and Senate negotiate differences in the transportation bill.

Gov. Ricketts to lead trade mission to Japan

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley will lead a trade mission to Japan.

According to a news release form Ricketts’ office, the governor will lead a delegation of Nebraska business leaders to the 47th Annual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference in Tokyo, September 12th through the 16th.

Lt. Gov. Foley will actually arrive in Japan a week earlier, on September 9th, with a separate delegation promoting Nebraska beef and pork.

Ricketts is scheduled to address the conference September 14th.

“Because Japan continues to be one of Nebraska’s top export customers and business investors, this is the perfect opportunity to continue building on our current relationships and reaffirm our commitment as a key player in Japan and the world marketplace,” Gov. Ricketts said in a written statement released by his office.

Japan plays a major role in the Nebraska economy. Japan is the largest foreign direct investor in the Nebraska economy, investing more than $4.4 billion into the state since 2010. Over 20% of Nebraska beef exports head to Japan; over 50% of its pork exports.

Ricketts earlier this year led a trade mission to Europe.

Possible close of Colorado coal mine could raise electric rates in Panhandle

The potential closing of a coal mine in Colorado could raise electricity rates in Nebraska’s Panhandle.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer has joined with Colorado and Wyoming Senators in asking the Department of Interior to take steps to keep the Colowyo Mine open. The mine provides coal to the Tri-State power plant in Craig, Colorado which supplies electricity to a number of western Nebraska communities.

Tri-State provides power to the Chimney Rock Public Power District in Bayard, Midwest Cooperative Corporation in Grant, Northwest Rural Public Power District in Hay Springs, Panhandle Rural Electric Membership Association in Alliance, Roosevelt Public Power District in Scottsbluff, and Wheat Belt Public Power District in Sidney.

A federal court has ruled against the Department of Interior’s plans for the Colowyo Mine, which supplies the coal for a northern Colorado power plant that supplies electricity to much of the Panhandle.

Fischer says the Department of Interior needs to act.

“The mine had obtained all the necessary permits,” Fischer tells Nebraska Radio Network. “They had complied with all of the regulations required by the department and this court decision has really turned things around and it could be very, very costly for people in the Panhandle of Nebraska.”

Fischer joined Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado as well as John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, calling on her to take immediate action to protect the Colowyo Mine.

Sen. Fischer remains optimistic about trade legislation

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer

United States Sen. Deb Fischer believes trade legislation will pass, eventually.

The House has approved so-called “fast track” trade legislation after failing to do so last week.

Fischer notes the defeat late last week came after President Barack Obama made a personal appear to his fellow Democrats.

“I think it was a huge blow to the president and his credibility. It was really done by members of his own party,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call.

A week ago, the House approved the Trade Promotion Authority, but it failed to approve companion pieces of legislation, preventing the package from moving back to the Senate.

This week, the House approved TPA once again and moved the so-called “fast track” bill on to the Senate for further negotiations.

Fischer believes the Senate and House will be able to reach a compromise on trade legislation.

“I believe that we’re going to get the trade bills passed,” Fischer says. “I know that the president has worked with leaders in the Republican Party in trying to get these bills passed.”

Fischer says increasing foreign markets benefits Nebraska, especially the farm sector.

“Nebraskans certainly understand how important trade is to our state and to our state’s economy. So, I am hopeful that we’re going to get it done.”

Trade bill squeezes through House, returns to Senate (AUDIO)

Congressman Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith

A trade bill moves forward that a Nebraska Congressman says could boost exports from this state.

Congressman Adrian Smith is pleased the House returned to trade legislation and approved the Trade Promotion Authority on a 218-to-208 vote.

“Yes, it was a fairly close vote, but the fact that we’ve taken that vote two weeks in a row I think that shows a good sign,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Last week, the House approved TPA, also known as fast-track trade legislation, but defeated a companion piece, blocking the package from moving back to the Senate.

This week, the House approved the stripped-down bill.

Smith dismisses concerns TPA, sometimes also called the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, gives a president too much power.

“This allows Congress to be much more involved in the entire process, rather than just being expected to vote at the very end,” according to Smith.

Smith says any legislation that increases the United States’ ability to trade with foreign countries will benefit Nebraska, primarily agriculture. Exports of beef and other agricultural products are a mainstay of the state economy. But Smith says the benefits go beyond the farm. He says Nebraska manufacturers will also benefit from greater trade.

The trade legislation now moves back to the Senate. The House and Senate must agree on a final version before the bill goes to the president.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]