Friday, September 24, 2010

Senate Hearing On Impact Of EPA Regulations On Agriculture

Sep 23: The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Chaired by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) held an oversight hearing to examine the impact of U.S. EPA regulation on agriculture. Witnesses included: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and representatives from: Arkansas Farm Bureau; Croplife America; and Kansas Corn Growers Association.
    In an opening statement, Chairman Lincoln said, "As a farmer's daughter, I learned firsthand that farmers, ranchers, and foresters are the best stewards of our land.  They have provided us with the safest, most abundant, and most affordable food and fiber supply for generations – and this could not happen without the careful stewardship of their land. In fact, much of the conservation gains made over the past half-century have been achieved through voluntary, incentive-based cost-share programs, many of which were developed on a bipartisan basis by members of this Committee, both past and present. Truly remarkable improvements have been made in reduced soil erosion, improved water and air quality, and wildlife habitat restoration. . .
    "As one who has been a part of this progress, it has been my experience and it is certainly my judgment that the carrot has time and again proved mightier than the stick when it comes to advancing important conservation and environmental objectives on farm, ranch and forest lands. Unfortunately, farmers and ranchers in rural Arkansas and all over our nation are increasingly frustrated and bewildered by vague, overreaching and unnecessarily burdensome EPA regulation.  Farmers face so many unknowns -- the last thing they need is regulatory uncertainty.  . . "
    She outlined several issues of concern saying: EPA's recent proposed spray drift guidance was vague, unenforceable and would have left producers uncertain about whether they were complying with the law when they spray; EPA's recent practice of settling Clean Water Act lawsuits while only allowing environmental groups a seat at the table; EPA's proposed boiler MACT regulation, which would inhibit the use of biomass by subjecting new facilities to needlessly expensive emissions controls; and EPA's proposed ambient air quality standards for particulate matter which could lead to stringent regulation of dust on farms. 
    Finally, she said, "I flat out disagree with EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases. Because the legal foundation for the tailoring rule is shaky at best, I fear that federal courts will order EPA to regulate small sources of greenhouse gases.  This could mean unnecessary regulation for thousands of farms all around the country.  We cannot allow this to happen. And as I have said time and again, it should be Congress, not unelected bureaucrats who should be writing the laws to regulate greenhouse gases."
    In a release following the hearing Senator Lincoln voiced concerns that EPA would soon begin inspecting poultry farms in Northwest Arkansas for compliance with the Clean Water Act. EPA has identified the Illinois River Watershed in Arkansas as a "priority watershed" and announced the proposed inspections last week at a public meeting in Fayetteville. She said, "I have heard from many Arkansas producers voicing their concerns about EPA coming onto their farms to inspect their poultry operations. I am extremely disappointed at the lack of consultation provided by EPA before moving forward with their inspections.  It is the responsibility of the EPA to clearly define the goal post and give farmers time to comply before moving forward.  I can't emphasize this enough – Arkansas's farmers work hard every day on razor thin margins and this type of potential action threatens to place increased costs and bureaucratic red tape to an already strapped bottom line." 
    She said, "At a time when every American feels anxious about his or her own economic future, our farmers, ranchers, and foresters are facing at least ten new regulatory requirements that will drive up their costs and make it more difficult to compete in the global marketplace. These regulations rely on dubious rationales and, as a consequence, will be of questionable benefit to the goal of conservation and environmental protection. Farmers face so many unknowns -- the last thing they need is regulatory uncertainty. Our farmers, ranchers and foresters need clear, straightforward, and predictable rules to live by that are not burdensome, duplicative, costly, unnecessary, or in some cases just plain bizarre."  

    Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee highlighted examples of the more than 20 different efforts underway at EPA that affect agriculture. He cited the EPA's suite of regulations that will drive up costs for all energy users, bring large and small agribusinesses into a permitting program and within a few years require large farms to obtain air permits. Additionally, he discussed EPA's plans to impose "an unnecessary paperwork burden on pesticide users." Earlier this summer, he cosponsored a bipartisan bill (S.3735) introduced by Senator Lincoln which they said would "clarify that additional permits are not required for pesticide application in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act."

    Senator Chambliss said, "According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the world will need to produce 70 percent more food to feed an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050. I seriously question whether anyone has made the connection between the central role that America must play to solve this challenge and the regulations that EPA has put forth for agriculture -- the very industry that will be responsible for the solution. No one disputes the need or desire for clean air and water, bountiful habitat and healthy landscapes. But at some point, which I believe we are getting dangerously close to, regulatory burdens on farmers and ranchers will hinder rather than help them become better stewards of the land and more bountiful producers of food, fiber and fuel."
    Access the opening statement from Senator Lincoln (click here). Access a release from Senator Lincoln (click here). Access a release from Senator Chambliss (click here). Access the hearing website for a link to the webcast (click here, testimony posted soon).