A Senate Agriculture Committee hearing held Thursday to examine the impact of Environmental Protection Agency regulations on the farm provided a forum for many Senators to express their concerns about the Agency’s actions and to ask some tough questions of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
In the past two years, regulatory actions emanating from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other EPA-related legislation have blossomed, touching pesticide applications, dust levels, oil spill prevention measures, greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient standards in and around bodies of water.
The plethora of new and changing regulations has left many in the agriculture industry concerned about what is required to be in full compliance –and how much compliance, or being out of compliance, could cost.
In their opening statements, Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) were blunt about the situation.
“Farmers and ranchers do not have an army of environmental engineers, lawyers and regulatory compliance specialists on their speed-dial,” Lincoln said. “Compliance obligations that may seem simple to a career bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., are often complex, ambiguous, and, in the end, leave farmers and ranchers feeling tremendously uncertain and exposed to steep fines they simply cannot afford.”
Chambliss expressed similar concerns, saying “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.”
For her part, Jackson defended her Agency’s work, noting that much of it is required by law or court decision, and denying that EPA is seeking to disproportionately affect agriculture.
Talking primarily about actions EPA is taking to implement various policies, she also addressed pending E15 regulations, saying the Agency could have a decision by mid-October.
At the hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) spoke to a bill she and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) have prepared that would provide the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to appoint up to three of the 50 current members of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. This would formalize efforts to get producers and their representatives more involved in EPA decision-making, a concept NAWG and many other farm organizations support.
NAWG works with other commodity groups, state wheat grower organizations and a broad range of coalition partners on EPA regulatory issues. Much more about this work is available www.wheatworld.org/environmentalissues.