Friday, August 1, 2014

You Can?t Eat Government Regulations
May 1, 2014 by John Parker | No Comments

Cold, wet weather has delayed spring planting for local farmers and those in other parts of the country. Now they may be faced with more…

Cold, wet weather has delayed spring planting for local farmers and those in other parts of the country. Now they may be faced with more problems that can cause extra work and expense. Those problems could come in the form of more governmental regulations.

On March 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule that they claim will clarify key exemptions and direction under the Clean Water Act. Agricultural interests, however, believe that this new rule is not favorable for farming.

EPA says that any normal farming activity that does not result in what it calls “point source discharge of pollutants” into waters of the United States will not require a permit. Those activities include plowing, planting, cultivating, minor drainage and harvesting crops.

Regulations that could result from this new rule, however, have many farm groups and key legislators concerned. They see it as an overreach on the part of EPA that causes more confusion on what is and what is not regulated. EPA, on the other hand, says the rule is an attempt to clarify the confusion.

Over the years and in various ways, EPA has attempted to regulate all the water that falls on the land. Ditches, farm ponds and areas that may have standing water two or three weeks a year could be regulated. This would reduce the productive ability of farms and farmland — and affect the food supply.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration recently issued a draft livestock feed regulation that has livestock groups and farmers concerned. The National Milk Producers Federation and other groups have asked FDA to rewrite their proposal. They say it would impose standards on livestock feed that equate animal feed and human feed. They want standards that are written for just livestock feeds.

The proposed regulation would also regulate by-products from the brewing industry when used in animal feed. For example, brewers grain, a by-product of the brewing industry and considered a safe feed that has been used for many years, would be regulated.

Because of concern from livestock groups, odds are this proposed regulation will be changed.

Within the past few weeks, the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 150. This bill will complement voluntary efforts by farmers to keep fertilizer from fields getting into waterways and lakes. It was supported by all major farm organizations and is expected to be signed by Governor Kasich.

It will require all farms applying fertilizer on 50 or more acres to be certified and have a license to apply that fertilizer. Records of how much fertilizer was applied, when and to what fields will be required.

The law will also provide a measure of defense if a farmer gets a lawsuit related to fertilizer.

While the bill has much support, the question can be raised that it might have been better to wait until research that will be done on sources of phosphorous discharge is completed. Major farm groups have raised over a million dollars, which will be matched by a similar amount from USDA, to do the research. This would better identify sources of this phosphorus pollution, not put the regulations all on the backs of farmers.

One reason the regulation was passed was that farm groups were concerned they might get something more difficult to live with that comes from environmental groups.

This gives one a view of regulations, proposed and passed, that farmers have to deal with. Back of every regulation is a cost that has to paid by someone.

Parker is an independent agricultural writer.

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