Monday, May 08, 2017

Regulations, farmers and the law

The Regulatory Accountability Act, a bipartisan measure introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), would restore reason to our nation’s regulatory process. Regardless of what anyone believes about a specific issue—safety, health or the environment—the underlying regulatory system should be open, transparent and fair. Today, it isn’t. Regulatory reform is a priority for America’s farmers and ranchers, who, in spite of documented environmental improvement, are under siege by federal regulations that have exploded in scope and severity, often in defiance of law. Farmers and ranchers are vulnerable to this regulatory overreach because our work is so connected to natural resources.Regulations are necessary, of course, to public health, environmental quality and even market fairness. But, when regulatory actions ignore or surpass the laws on which they are based, the results can be disastrous. Overreaching bureaucrats tell farmers they can’t plow dry fields. They designate dry ditches as navigable waterways. They classify whole crops such as corn, soybean and wheat as “chemical hazards.”... The EPA is by no means the lone wolf in this regulatory spectacle. Several years ago, when the Labor Department proposed changing regulations governing child labor in agriculture, it came to light that the department’s own handbook, available publicly on its website, contradicted its own proposal. Similarly, for years the U.S. Forest Service has dogged federal permit holders to share or hand over private water rights to the federal government. Such intimidation not only threatens to compromise owners’ lawful state property rights, but also contradicts a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding those rights. Against this backdrop, late last year the American Farm Bureau Federation and 52 other agricultural organizations asked Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to reform the rulemaking process. We laid out our rallying principles--more transparency, the use of sound science, accountability in agencies’ use of economic and supporting data and a level playing field for all stakeholders--in a white paper that can be found at A regulatory process that is fair, open and transparent for all will better protect our environment, our safety and our public health....

Zippy Duvall, a cattle and poultry farmer from Georgia, is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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