Coalition of Ag Groups Urge Members to Vote Against H.R. 2868

Nov 4, 2009

MEDIA CONTACT:
Tamara Hinton (202) 225-0184
tamara.hinton@mail.house.gov

WASHINGTON – A coalition of agriculture groups sent a letter to Members of Congress yesterday urging them to vote against H.R. 2868, the Chemical and Drinking Water Security Act of 2009.

The coalition, which includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Wheat Growers, USA Rice Federation, and the National Cotton Council, argued that the bill would have a direct impact on farmers and ranchers who use certain agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and other pesticides, for agriculture production. They further argue that current regulations known as Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) have not been fully implemented, and that they have collectively worked with the Department of Homeland Security and others to establish those standards and ensure compliance.

"It no longer surprises me that the Democratic leadership is once again racing to impose more government mandates on our farmers, ranchers and small businesses without considering the economic impact of their actions, or without fully implementing the existing regulations on the books. We all want to protect America's food supply, and those in the agriculture industry continue to take the necessary steps to do so. However, rushing to add more regulatory burdens and costs on our nation's food producers without providing any additional security against acts of terrorism, which is the supposed purpose of the bill, is irresponsible and detrimental to the entire agriculture industry," Ranking Member Frank Lucas said.

H.R. 2868 is expected to come to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote tomorrow.

The text of the letter is below.

November 3, 2009

Dear Members of Congress:

We are writing to express our opposition to H.R. 2868, the "Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009." Despite changes made to the legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee in an effort to remedy significant shortcomings in the bill, the measure would still impose an increased regulatory burden on U.S. agriculture and we urge members to vote against it.

There is no question that homeland security and the protection of America's food supply are top priorities. The nation's agricultural industry continues to take pro-active steps throughout the distribution chain to secure crops and livestock as well as critical crop input materials such as fertilizer and pesticides from the threat of potential terrorists. Our organizations and members have worked closely with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials in order to establish appropriate standards and ensure compliance with the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) regulations.

Specifically, we strongly object to the Inherently Safer Technology (IST) provisions of this legislation; this part of the measure would allow DHS to mandate that businesses employ specific product substitutions and processes. If the IST mandate and assessments are put in place for the nation's agricultural industry, they could well jeopardize the availability of widely used, lower-cost sources of essential plant nutrient products or certain agricultural pesticides used by farmers and ranchers.

IST is an engineering concept used to improve designs of worker safety protections at manufacturing facilities. We are concerned that this concept is being inappropriately applied to security issues. IST is not a security-based concept and we believe an important distinction must be made between safety and security. DHS has testified that IST requirements do not impact the security of a chemical facility. In addition, DHS stated that they do not have the expertise to evaluate IST options for each sector regulated. Furthermore, where appropriate, IST is already incorporated into the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Process Safety Management (PSM) program. The requirements within the chemical site security bill go beyond what is required under PSM and are duplicative and burdensome for facilities which currently comply with PSM.

We support efforts to permanently authorize the DHS CFATS regulations. However, any legislation considered on the House floor needs to take into account the regulatory and economic impact on American agriculture and the consumer for whom we provide essential food, fiber and bioenergy.
Thank you for taking our concerns into account as Congress considers H.R. 2868. We stand ready to work with Congress towards the implementation of a fair and responsible chemical facility security program.

Sincerely,

Agricultural Retailers Association

American Farm Bureau Federation

Chemical Producers and Distributors Association

National Agricultural Aviation Association

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Cotton Council

The Fertilizer Institute

USA Rice Federation