Charles H. Bronson was equally alarmed by the EPA’s aim to revise National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements under which any transfer of water would require a permit. “Every farm would have to have a filtration system of some kind on the water before it leaves for another location,” he said. Characterizing this system as a “bureaucratic nightmare,” Bronson estimated that farmers and ranchers would be hit with additional costs ranging from $900 million to $1.6 billion, accompanied by a loss of 1,400 jobs. “We need to have a more scientifically open and transparent process,” Bronson said. “We need to have an honest debate with the American people about the cost of this policy.”
Bronson cited the EPA’s handing of Florida water management as an example of their overreach. In 2008, the agency settled a lawsuit with environmental groups, agreeing to establish “nutrient criteria” for all the water in the state, ignoring years of scientific research by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and other experts, locking the state government entirely out of the process. Bronson says the new rules “will cost agriculture $4 billion to $10 billion a year to meet the standards,” and taxpayers using municipal water systems would be hit with an additional $8.1 billion charge. “This is simply an unacceptable burden for Florida,” he added.
Those attending the AFBF meeting expressed the most enthusiasm for Mr. Stallman’s characterization of the EPA as “a clear and present danger” to agriculture. “We will not stand idly by while opponents of today’s American agriculture try to drag us down, try to bury us in bureaucratic red tape and costly regulation, and try to destroy the most productive and efficient agricultural system in the world,” Stallman vowed. The organization is already resisting EPA regulations requiring farmers to obtain EPA permits before spraying crops with pesticide- and disease-killing chemicals. Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee announced that EPA rules regarding both “spray drift’ and “farm dust” will be reviewed by Congress this year. The AFBF delegates, who set the organization’s policies will likely approve a resolution on Tuesday requesting Congress to “rein in the EPA.”
In a related vein, Reuters reports that French president Nicolas Sarkozy will be meeting with Barack Obama next week. One of the main topics of the meeting? Soaring international food prices, which the NY Times reports hit a “record high” in December. Environmental activists contend climate disruptions caused by global warming are the principal reason.
The Obama administration and EPA head Lisa Jackson have made it clear they consider that organization beyond the reach of Congressional restraint. Republican Congressmen Darrel Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) intend to hold hearings to determine the validity of science used as the basis for EPA regulations. The bigger battle will be about the separation of power between the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government, with the Obama administration pushing to expand its ability to rule by fiat wherever possible.
Food prices are extremely important to Americans, but the stakes here are far higher. If the EPA can bypass Congress, America is heading into largely uncharted waters, a sentiment best expressed by Phil Nelson, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau: “We think that agency is out of control right now…”
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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