“No, not another regulation!” Farmers feel like they are up to their eyeballs in regulations. Voices of frustration are becoming louder. If asked what the top farming issues are, almost always farmers will list increasing regulations near the top. The bottom line is . . . farmers are growing weary from regulatory threats.
Why do we need regulations? Regulations are a tool used to achieve social, political, environmental and economic outcomes that would otherwise not be achieved within the market.
Okay, I get that. But at what point are there just too many regulations? Are we there? At what point are farmers going to throw their hands up and say, “That’s it, I’ve had enough! Just stop . . . Just stop. . .
I dread new legislative sessions because I know it is just a matter of time before new regulation proposals rear their ugly heads. And every time I hear a new one, I just sigh . . . and think, “how are we going to deal with this one?” These regulations come from both the national and state level. At the national level, there are 15 volumes of regulations. That’s a lot of regulations.
A recent regulatory proposal dealing with EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) jurisdiction over “public waters of the U.S.” is just downright scary. EPA is looking at regulating navigable waters, even if these areas are not wet most of the time. That could mean any water standing, even if it’s standing only a day or two a year. So, yes, if we receive a rainstorm and have a puddle of water in a field, technically that water puddle could be considered “public waters of the U.S.” and under EPA’s jurisdiction.
Here is a quote from Bob Stallman, president of American Farm Bureau Federation:
“The EPA proposal poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and other landowners. Under EPA’s proposed new rule, waters-even ditches-are regulated even if they are miles from the nearest ‘navigable’ waters. Indeed, so-called ‘waters’ are regulated even if they aren’t wet most of the time,” Stallman warned. “EPA says its new rule will reduce uncertainty, and that much seems to be true: there isn’t much uncertainty if most every feature where water flows or stands after a rainfall is federally regulated.”
Under the proposed rule, farmers, ranchers and every other landowner across the countryside will face a tremendous new roadblock to ordinary land use activities.
“This is not just about the paperwork of getting a permit to farm, or even about having farming practices regulated,” Stallman said. “The fact is there is no legal right to a Clean Water Act permit-if farming or ranching activities need a permit, EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers can deny that permit. That’s why Clean Water Act jurisdiction over farmlands amounts to nothing less than federal veto power over a farmer’s ability to farm.”
This is serious business, folks. This would make farming very, very difficult. Government overreach. Unacceptable.
Another example – a new conservation program, the Certainty program, was established by the Minnesota legislature. The Certainty program is a water quality conservation program to help target water quality issues in four different watersheds in the state. I live in one of the watersheds targeted for this new program. While I agree that water quality and conservation is important and we need to do what we can, I don’t agree with the way the program is being implemented.
Specifically, the Certainty Program is a voluntary program and will last 10 years. If a landowner becomes “certified,” (by following a variety of conservation regulations and receiving a certain “score”), the landowner will not be subjected to any new water conservation regulations the state legislature may pass during the next 10 years.
When I heard that for the first time, my eyebrows furled a bit and I felt a twinge in my stomach. It just didn’t feel right. Do we need to be threatened with new regulations? Does the government need to use it’s bully power by implying “comply with the Certainty Program or else you will have to follow any new water quality regulations we, the legislature, pass in the next 10 years.” So, will the legislature punish (even if unintentionally) farmers (by implementing harsh regulations) if they don’t participate in the Certainty Program? We just don’t know. You may think that statement is just silly, but when you examine the legislature makeup in the state of Minnesota, I would beg to differ. We have a strong urban Democratic legislature with very little rural/ag representation. Basically, two counties have enough legislative power in the state to make decisions for the rest of the state. Scary for farmers? Yes. Even with 20% of the state’s economy ag related, we have very little legislative representation. And their view and understanding of agriculture is not the same as those of us out on the farm in rural Minnesota. Yes, I get the political landscape is changing. No doubt about it. But the bottom line is, farmers still need to farm . . . we still need to eat.
So where do we go from here? I think we as farmers need to think outside the box and find ways to engage with our government and elected legislators. We need to understand each other and look for solutions that are good for all. I would love to see government and urban legislators reach out to farmers. And we as farmers need to develop relationships with legislators and governmental officials.
What are your thoughts about this issue? Are you experiencing any similar stories in your state? I would love to hear them or any suggestions how we can control the number of government regulations.