EPA: Friend or Foe of the Farmer?

December 2, 2013 11:39 PM
EPA: Friend or Foe of the Farmer?

Cattle roaming the land. Lush green corn lining country roads. This is the picture of American agriculture--a picture that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tells us they want to not only stay, but to be even more efficient in the future.

"We at EPA really want to partner with them to get to the common goals we all share: cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner land," says Sarah Bittleman, EPA Ag Counselor. "At EPA we don’t think we can do it without agriculture."

Despite the EPA's statements, groups such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) say it's become a war with the agency.

"We've been fighting EPA for years now. In fact, we joke EPA now stands for eliminating production agriculture, because it seems like every time we turn around they're coming after us," says Collin Woodall, NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs.

"We understand at EPA that we are regarded with a certain amount of cynicism, but the bottom line is we share the same goals as farmers and ranchers," says Bittleman. "We want to see America’s farmers and ranchers be productive; we want [them] to stay on the land and keep growing, producing, and innovating."

NCBA says it's EPA’s actions, not its talk, that spark fear within the industry--fear that one day EPA will dictate not only what they farm or ranch, but how they do it. Woodall says the latest example is the upcoming ruling on the Clean Water Act.

"Now we're worried about their effort to try to once again redefine what is a water of the U.S. by taking the word ‘navigable’ out of that definition," says Woodall.

He says that whether it be an in-ground stock tank or even a dry stream, those bodies of water would be deemed a water of the U.S, and once that happens, he says it falls under the jurisdiction of EPA.

"It'd be a huge land grab, because basically if this moves forward, producers would have to file for a permit from the EPA to use that body of water and the land around it," says Woodall.

"While I understand that people are concerned that EPA not overreach its jurisdictional boundaries on waters of the U.S., we think there’s been a lot of confusion in this area," says Bittleman. "And what EPA is really intending to do is to provide some clarification."

Bittleman says that once the ruling is released, there will be a comment period where producers have time to voice their concerns.

"In the meantime, the existing agricultural exemptions under the law still exist, and we expect will continue to exist," she says.

Bittleman says that despite the vocal concerns from various agriculture groups, EPA wants to help farmers succeed.

"A whole host of folks that actually want to help agriculture stay on the land, keep doing what they're doing, keep doing what they love, and keep improving what they do, she says.

For More Information
Sarah Bittleman will be part of a live broadcast of "AgriTalk," the nation's leading agriculture radio talk show, this week at the Farm Journal Forum. The "Balancing Act: Regulating Innovation" broadcast on Dec. 5th will have host Mike Adams interviewing guests Bittleman and Jack Bobo. Learn more about the Farm Journal Forum.

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Spell Check

12/3/2013 09:53 AM

  Oh yeah, they want to help us succeed under their rules. It is all about power. It's like the DNR, you know, farmers know they have our best interests at heart. NOT. My experiences with all government bodies is their need to dictate what I do. For the good of the country and especially me. Want to scare the crap out of a farmer? Mention that the DNR and the EPA are both on their way out to talk to him!!! No, they are not our friends.

12/3/2013 05:13 PM

  Considering the influence that outside groups had on the ethanol mandate (regardless of your thoughts on the mandate) it is not good for outside groups to have any control over farming other than influencing demand. What happened to "Freedom to Farm"?

12/5/2013 01:22 AM

  Don't diss the EPA!! They simply wants to "partner" with ag producers and "share their common goals" of having us return to cave dwellings, nightly drum banging, and dancing around a big bonfire...oh wait, make that dancing around a pile of rocks and pretending there's a fire...wait, wait..we can't move rocks (it disrupts the ecosystem),..um, pretend dancing around a pretend plle of rocks and pretending we're one in harmony with the EPA. That's all they want.


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