Carl Shaffer would have much preferred being back at his Columbia County, Pa., farm, scrambling to finish an already late corn harvest. Yet, on Thursday – after three days of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's annual meeting, he was in Washington, D.C., testifying before the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade.
But the cause was far greater than his farm, as he told American Agriculturist earlier in the week. "[Environmental] regulatory burdens will grind agriculture to a halt if we don't stop their continual encroachment on our food production system."
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not assessed the cost of the regulations that the agency has set in motion in just the last three years. "It has not done cost-benefit analyses."
With respect to its Chesapeake Bay watershed cleanup campaign, he spoke of serious misassumptions for gaps in the Bay model. "If we follow that model, we'll spend billions chasing compliance to find out it either didn't work or wasn't necessary to begin with."
In just the last three years, U.S. EPA has set in motion a significant number of new regulations that'll significantly change the face of agriculture. That's why Shaffer and other leaders of American Farm Bureau Federation were in Washington, testifying that current and proposed regulatory burdens threaten the continued operation of family farms and ranches.
EPA proposals to exert greater regulatory control over agriculture will drive up the cost of producing food, fiber and fuel, noted Shaffer. "The proposals are overwhelming and are creating a cascade of costly requirements likely to drive individual farmers to the tipping point. They are unprecedented and promise profound effects on both the structure and competitiveness of all of agriculture."
"In contrast to EPA's heavy-handed approach of issuing crushing regulatory burdens, agriculture and the Agriculture Department have worked together. Over the last few decades, we've made enormous strides in agriculture's environmental performance by adopting a range of conservation practices and environmental measures," he added.
He labeled the nutrient management plan that EPA is taking steps to implement as "unlawful". EPA also proposals to expand the scope of waters subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act. That would require costly and duplicative permits for normal pesticide applications, proposed standards for regulation of dust, and unjustified attempts to collect data from livestock farms.
In his testimony, Shaffer said that "EPA is literally piling regulation on top of regulation, and guidance on top of guidance, to the point of erecting barriers to economic growth."
Shaffer was joined by Philip Nelson, president of Illinois Farm Bureau, who also testified Noting the new Pesticide General Permit regulation that went into effect November, he said, "This new permit is a needless duplication of existing law. We don't need this entirely new permit program."
He told the House subcommittee that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act has covered pesticide labeling and application very effectively since 1947. "Further, the pesticide permit "doesn't improve food safety, doesn't add any additional environmental protection or benefit for society, and does nothing to improve my bottom line," he added.
Nelson also commented briefly on the potential impacts of proposed dust regulations on agriculture, urging support for legislation such as H.R. 1633, the Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The act would ensure that normal activities essential to farming operations aren't unduly regulated by standards for which there's no proven benefit to human health.