In January President Barack Obama issued an executive order on regulatory reform and seeking input on regulations to reduce barriers to growth and investment.
Today, farmers, ranchers, and countless other business owners face a long list of federal requirements that are eroding their bottom line; they come in the form of regulations, “guidance,” and any number of other agency pronouncements.
Congressional members have stepped up to let this administration know what some of those costly regulations that have the ability to directly impact agriculture and rural America.
The top two Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee Sen. Saxby Chambliss, (R-Ga.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) sent a letter Jan. 26 to Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) outlining several regulations they view as burdensome to farmers and rural America. Their letter has a laundry list of the regulations that could most impact U.S. agriculture.
The letter raised concerns with pesticide regulations including permits, atrazine and the Administration's failure to establish a process through with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service can consult with the EPA on endangered species issues through buffers established in the Endangered Species Act.
The senators also outlined issues pertaining to water including Clean Water Act strategy, numeric nutrient criteria, water quality standards rulemaking and CAFOS. The duo also stated the Administration should review the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulation seeking to limit the amounts of discharges allowed into certain water bodies. They fear the action could be used as a model for other water bodies.
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman said the TMDL rule should be reevaluated. “The President’s Executive Order notes that the regulatory system should promote economic growth, be based on the best available science, allow for public participation and an open exchange of ideas, and use the least burdensome tools for accomplishing its ends. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL rule fails on all these counts," he said. "For example, EPA failed to analyze (or at least failed to publicly disclose) the economic impact that would result from its TMDL, even after repeatedly promising to do so. If the new executive order is to have any meaning, we expect it will result in the reconsideration of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL. Otherwise, we have to wonder whether this Executive Order will bring about any real change.”
Regarding crop insurance in early January, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) unveiled a proposed rule that would reward farmers participating in the federal crop insurance program for good performance. The senators state as proposed by RMA, the “Good Performance Refund” Program "does not appear to meet the spirit of the new executive order. First, instead of utilizing an electronic delivery mechanism that is already in place, the proposal would require the Treasury or USDA to issue hard copy checks to eligible producers. Secondly, the proposal fails to comply with the statutory requirement that producer performance be based on region. By failing to take geographical differences under consideration, RMA’s proposal disproportionately benefits producers in regions with favorable weather conditions. Finally, the agency has allowed only 15 days for public comment," the letter said.
The letter also notes air, trade, biotechnology and other regulations.
Top Republicans in the House Agriculture Committee Rep. Frank Lucas (R- OK) and Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) also wrote a letter to the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Gary Gensler, requesting that the agency voluntarily adhere to President Obama's executive order.
The executive order calls for certain federal agencies and departments to review regulations to ensure they do not “stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.” However, the CFTC would be exempt because it is an independent agency. CFTC is tasked with implementing an unprecedented number of new regulations required under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which has the potential to impact every segment of the economy. Lucas and Conaway point out that it is imperative the CFTC consider unintended consequences.
"The regulations from Dodd-Frank will have a far-reaching impact on our economy and if the administration excludes them from review then President Obama’s initiative is not credible. The scope and magnitude of Dodd-Frank calls for a careful and methodical rulemaking process to prevent harming an already struggling economy. It is my hope that Chairman Gensler will voluntarily comply with the executive order," said Rep. Frank D. Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
"We must work together to ensure that varied risk management strategies remain affordable and relevant. In the coming months, I look forward to working to ensure that costs, benefits, and consequences be taken into account before all-encompassing regulations are imposed. The actions we’ve requested of Chairman Gensler represent an important first step in this process, and it is my hope he will accommodate the request of Chairman Lucas and I," said Rep. K. Michael Conaway, chairman of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.
Click here to view the letter to Chairman Gensler.
Policy is one of the most important issues facing farmers today, but often the most difficult to digest. Jacqui Fatka has a passion to decode the often difficult world of agricultural policy into terms understandable for today's ag players.
Fatka joined the Farm Progress team as E-Content Editor in August 2003 after graduating from Iowa State University. Prior to full-time employment with Farm Progress, she interned at Wallaces Farmer magazine, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's press office and the Iowa Pork Producers Association and freelanced for National Hog Farmer. She also worked as a public relations consultant with Iowa Industries for the Future, an effort to bring together major players in the biorenewables industry.
Currently Fatka is a staff editor at a sister publication, Feedstuffs. For Farm Futures she regularly tells the story of ongoing agricultural policy changes. Her byline can also be found on management profiles.
Fatka grew up on a grain and livestock farm near Atlantic, Iowa. She currently lives in central Ohio with her husband Eric, and their three children - Josiah, Spencer and Avonell.
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