It's amazing how different my world is from the world the House Ag Committee Republicans live in. You see, I'm constantly ticked at the EPA for not protecting the environment enough. You know, like allowing a pesticide on the market without testing it for harm against honeybees... then letting the manufacturer do a belated joke of a study, calling it "scientifically sound," and letting it go at that while the bees all die. Then, years later, the EPA looked at the initial study again and realized that actually, it was crap. Only the pesticide is still legal and widely used.
And while I'm worrying about that, our friends on the Republican side of the House Ag Committee are busy yelling about the EPA doing too much! Oh boy. Here's a little taste of what they've been saying lately. And, um, it might be a good idea to call your reps and let them know that you strongly disagree with this. If you want the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, that is.
Let me treat you to a recent floor speech by House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK). I've annotated it with a little dose of reality:
Today I rise in support of H.RES. 72.
American agriculture is under attack. Every day the administration seems to demonstrate just how vastly disconnected it is from the folks who feed us. The administration fails to realize that rural America’s economy is dependant on agriculture. The in-your-face-approach that the administration has taken regarding government regulation has increased the cost of doing business for America’s farmers and ranchers. If the administration is allowed to continue down this path, the only choice for many farmers and ranchers will be to stop farming altogether.
From the dairies in Vermont, to the wheat fields near the Chesapeake Bay, to the corn farms in the Midwest, American agriculture is under a constant barrage of irrational and unworkable regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, which are burdensome, overreaching, and that negatively affect jobs and rural economies.
This EPA is mostly interested in pursuing the extreme agenda of environmental groups without any consideration for the impact it will have on our farmers and ranchers. For example:
The EPA wants to treat milk spills like oil spills simply because milk contains animal fat. EPA has suggested that milk storage be regulated under the Clean Water Act as large oil tanks;
Reality: The spilled milk claim is more or less nonsense, basically a non-issue. The EPA is NOT trying to regulate spilled milk like it regulates spilled oil, or won't when the rules are finalized. This seems like the Republicans fishing for something to complain about.
The EPA wants farmers to till fields without producing any dust. Clearly, the folks at EPA have never stepped foot on a farm in western Oklahoma or otherwise they would know that dust happens and all the regulations in the world can’t eliminate its existence;
Reality: His comment about dust is related to the EPA's regulation of Particulate Matter under the Clean Air Act. A friend who blogs as Mental Masala helped me find this. According to him, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to use good science, and the more scientists look into particulate matter, the more they find that it's harmful to our hearts and lungs. Two years ago, the American Lung Association won a case saying that Bush-era standards were not sufficient and the EPA had to do something about it. Here's what the farmers are saying about it. I have not been able to find more reliable information about what exactly the EPA is trying to do and how it will impact farms.
The EPA wants farmers to ensure that none of the spray they use for pests drifts even one foot away from the original source;
Reality: The Spray Drift issue seems to also be made up. You can find the biotech/pesticide lobby's take on it here, but a December 2010 EPA meeting on the topic shows a very different story. They are talking about LABELS on pesticides to warn against drift. Nothing more. Literally.
The EPA has started an unprecedented, RE-RE-evaluation of the popular weed control product atrazine. In 2006, the EPA completed a 12-year review involving 6,000 studies and 80,000 public comments, yet one of the first orders of business for the Obama administration was to start all over after an article appeared in The New York Times;
Reality: There's good reason to research atrazine. After all, it's so widely used that some of our country has it in their drinking water, and it's an endocrine disruptor. It reduces human male sperm count and can make male fish produce eggs in their testes. It's banned in some countries. (You can find more about it from the interview with atrazine researcher Tyrone Hayes on 8/15/10.)
The EPA is trying to regulate watersheds based off of inaccurate data and flawed models -- a problem recognized even by top officials at USDA.
Reality: And perhaps the most important one of these (because it's a real issue, not made up) - one I'm familiar with. The EPA's efforts to clean up watersheds, beginning with Chesapeake Bay. This is a big deal. So-called "nutrient pollution," which basically means fertilizers and poop, gets into our watersheds and creates dead zones. That's not good, for obvious reasons. The answer is to stop the fertilizer (used on crops) and manure (from livestock) from being applied or disposed of in ways that let them get into our waterways. The farmers - or at least the large, traditional farm lobby organizations - don't want to do that. They'd rather keep polluting, thank you very much. Apparently, the USDA has different information on the watersheds than the EPA does, which is what Lucas is referencing here. And it would be good for whoever is right to do what it takes to clean up the Chesapeake and then the Mississippi, but I have a hunch that whatever is done, if it involves regulating agricultural pollution, we'll continue to get opposition to it from the Farm Bureau and company.
And, on Lucas goes with more complaints. He's not just against the EPA - he's also against the so-called GIPSA rule, a VERY important rule that will make the livestock market more fair and competitive (Action: call the White House at 202-456-1111 this week and tell them you support the GIPSA rule!)
Lucas plans to devote much of this year to
bullying federal regulatory agencies oversight hearings, before tackling the farm bill in 2012. So now you've heard from Lucas about his pet issues. Here's what the other Republicans have been saying on these issues.
"There are many examples of actions undertaken by Obama’s EPA, which defy sound science, good judgment and will only result in putting America’s farmers and ranchers out of business." - Rep. Jean Schmidt
"The EPA’s onerous regulatory burdens will have devastating economic impacts on the 5th District and rural communities across America. Small towns, rural farms and ranches will be forced to meet arbitrary requirements and be punished for the federal government’s unwillingness to recognize the environmental gains from voluntary conservation practices at the state and local levels. We must act to remove the cloud of uncertainty this administration’s burdensome requirements have cast over rural America, and build on the practices and knowledge of local communities to strengthen American agriculture."
- Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson
"The current administration has spent the last two years piling on regulation after regulation that make it more difficult for small businesses and family farms to grow and create jobs."
- Rep. Austin Scott
"Environmental Protection Agency’s Boiler MACT ruling would lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. This ruling is only one in a long line of troubling rule-making decisions by the EPA and other federal agencies. We cannot continue to be faced with regulations that are not consistent, that overly impede on particular industries, discourage innovation, and eliminate jobs and businesses. I look forward to Congress exerting their oversight power and to reign in the federal agencies." - Rep. Martha Roby
"I came to Washington to bring some common sense to a city sorely lacking it. We have too many regulations being written by bureaucrats who have no idea what the real world is like. I welcome the opportunity this resolution provides for us to bring these regulators in and give them a picture of what life is in the world outside the beltway." - Rep. Tim Huelskamp
"To get our economy moving and creating jobs again we need to eliminate the impediments to growth. The simple fact is federal regulations have increased the cost of doing business and destroyed jobs. That is something small business owners and farmers have told me again and again as I have traveled across the 20th District. A prime example of this is a proposed EPA regulation that would treat spilled milk like spilled oil – thereby incurring an additional cost burden on dairy farmers, which decreases profitability and makes them less likely to expand." - Rep. Christopher Gibson
"The EPA is advancing numerous proposals that are harmful to agriculture. One rule wants to regulate dust on our farms. They call it ‘air quality.’ Where I’m from it’s called ‘living in the country.’ In case the bureaucrats in Washington haven’t heard, driving on a gravel road and planting seeds in the soil makes dust! We don’t need Washington to regulate dust. We need common sense." - Rep. Vicky Hartzler
And a little more hate for GIPSA thrown in for good measure:
"GIPSA’s proposed rule governing livestock and poultry marketing practices will have costly, unintended consequences for our nation’s livestock producers, leading to higher consumer prices, lower producer income and reduced competitiveness. Members of both parties have raised questions about the scope, process, and intent of this rulemaking, which was not even accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis. USDA must reconsider this proposed rule."
- Rep. Thomas J. Rooney
Great group, huh? It's gonna be a long two years.