Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to examine the benefits of promoting soil health in agriculture and rural America.
Opening Statement of Chairman Lucas at the Public Hearing to Review the Impact of EPA Regulations on Agriculture
Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184
Good afternoon. I would like to thank Administrator Jackson for being here today. I know there are quite a few committees in Congress that have invited you to appear before them and I expect your popularity as a witness will not diminish anytime soon.
There is a reason the top issue for nearly every member of the Agriculture Committee is related to the regulatory agenda of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The reason is simple: many members of this committee believe over the past two years the EPA has pursued an agenda seemingly absent of consideration for the consequences it would have on rural America and production agriculture. The agency is creating regulations and policies that are burdensome, overreaching, and that negatively affect jobs and rural economies.
Just a few examples:
- EPA’s proposed zero tolerance standard for pesticide spray drift;
- Initiating action to stiffen the current regulatory standard on farm dust, which would make tilling a field, operating a feedlot, or driving a farm vehicle nearly impossible; and
- An unprecedented, re-re-evaluation of the popular weed control product atrazine. The EPA in 2006 completed a 12-year review involving 6,000 studies and 80,000 public comments, yet one of the first orders of business of the Obama administration was to start over after an article appeared in The New York Times.
In many instances, the agency is ignoring Congressional intent and looks to be bullying Congress. Instead of simply administering the law, EPA challenges Congress to pass legislation that gives it more authority. And, if Congress doesn’t act, it will regulate anyway.
Farmers, ranchers, and foresters alike take great pride in their stewardship of the land. When a family’s livelihood depends on caring for natural resources, there is an undeniable economic incentive to adopt practices that enhance long term viability. While it may be popular among urbanites and suburbanites to blame farmers and ranchers for environmental concerns, I think that you can acknowledge that nobody cares more for the environment than those who derive their livelihoods from it.
Rural America’s economy is dependant on agriculture. EPA’s regulatory approach has unjustifiably increased the cost of doing business for America’s farmers and ranchers. If EPA continues down this path, the only choice for many farmers and ranchers will be to stop farming altogether.
While there are many government regulations that are seemingly good for the country, those regulations must be developed in a manner that is mindful of science and the economic consequences. There has been some recognition of this phenomenon as President Obama recently issued an executive order insuring that all regulations should have public participation, be based on science, and not prohibit growth, competitiveness and job creation. I look forward to finding out how the many recent EPA actions meet these criteria.
On a more positive note, I would like to take this time to acknowledge that there are recent examples where the EPA and this committee have been able to work cooperatively in an effort to remove unnecessary regulatory burdens. In particular, I would like to commend you for the technical assistance you have provided this committee in our efforts to clarify that the regulatory authority for pesticide applications in or near the waters of the United States falls under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and not the Clean Water Act (CWA).
I would also like to call your attention to our shared concerns regarding the seemingly dysfunctional consultation process for pesticides under the Endangered Species Act. This is an issue of great concern to the committee and we would hope to be able to work cooperatively with the EPA to address it.
I anticipate that nearly every member will wish to engage you in a discussion of specific areas of concern. It is my hope that this hearing will serve to open the door to a more cooperative working relationship with EPA generally and with you specifically.
I would like to end this opening statement with one last perception. Farmers and ranchers believe your agency is attacking them. They believe little credit is given to them for all the voluntary conservation activities that they have been engaged in for years. This committee is going to be an advocate for those farmers and I will tell you the committee will look at every proposed rule from your agency and ask three questions.
- Is the EPA following the law?
- Are you making regulatory decisions based on sound science and data?
- And are you conducting adequate cost-benefit analyses?
I thank you again for being here and look forward to the dialogue that develops today and in the future.