Ask farmers what they think about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and regulations are about all that comes to mind. In many cases, they say, the regulations don’t reflect reality. The reason farmers have that mindset, according to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, is because there are a lot of tall tales and myths about what EPA is—and isn’t—doing to regulate the agriculture industry.
In one of Jackson’s recent visits to the Hill to discuss EPA regulations, several lawmakers made it clear that they and, most importantly, their constituents are not happy with EPA.
"Farmers and ranchers believe your agency is attacking them," House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) told Jackson. "They believe little credit is given to them for all the voluntary conservation activities that they have been engaged in for years."
On the Democratic side of the Committee, ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) expressed his displeasure with EPA regulations.
"With all due respect to the Administrator and her testimony regarding EPA’s commitment to science, transparency and the rule of law, farmers in the countryside don’t see that," Peterson explains. "They see an out-of-control agency that doesn’t understand agriculture and doesn’t want to understand."
Jackson was ready for the barrage, and she sought to rebut lawmaker (and farmer) concerns by outlining the "myths" she said exist about EPA regulatory actions.
"One is the notion that EPA intends to regulate the emissions from cows—commonly referred to as a cow tax," Jackson said. "This myth was started in 2008 by a lobbyist and was quickly debunked by the non-partisan, independent group www.factcheck.org—but it still lives on. The truth is EPA is proposing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a responsible, careful manner and we have even exempted agricultural sources from regulation."
Clearing the air. Another myth, Jackson said, is that EPA is going to expand regulation of dust from farms. "We have no plans to do so, but let me be clear: The Clean Air Act mandates that the agency routinely review the science of various pollutants, including particulate matter, which are directly responsible for heart attacks and premature deaths," she said, adding that the EPA staff is conducting meetings "to engage with and listen to farmers and ranchers well before we propose any rule."
One myth that Jackson said troubles her most concerns milk and how it is viewed by regulators. "The notion that EPA intends to treat spilled milk in the same way as spilled oil is simply incorrect," she stressed, noting that the agency is about to finalize an exemption for milk.
Jackson laid the blame back on members of Congress. "This exemption needed to be finalized because the law passed by Congress was written broadly enough to cover milk containers," she observed.
Other "myths" Jackson was quick to rebut have to do with spray drift and numeric nutrient limits.
Budget-Cutting Blueprint Targets Agriculture
The federal government could potentially save billions of dollars if overlapping, duplicated and no-longer-needed programs were removed, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Several ethanol, food safety and food assistance programs fall under that umbrella.
GAO says $5.7 billion would flow back into government coffers if the ethanol blender credit came to an end, calling the credit "largely unneeded." It adds that mandates "ensure a market for domestic ethanol production exists in the absence of the ethanol tax credit."
Some lawmakers will use the GAO report as an argument for proposing budget cuts. It also gives those who favor ethanol subsidies yet another issue they will need to focus on as the year unfolds.