Farmer Co-ops call for two-year freeze on burdensome regulations

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 - Congress should enact a two-year moratorium on all discretionary, nonessential regulatory action that would have the effect of increasing the cost of agricultural production, according to the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC).


In a letter sent to leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on Friday, NCFC President Chuck Conner outlined several regulations his group would like to have placed “on hold” as part of the committee's recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Conner and his staff plan to meet with lawmakers this week to advance the proposal.


“Given the country's current economic crisis and Congress' ongoing effort to reduce serious federal budget deficits, we feel extraordinary measures are called for to reduce the climate of uncertainty created by burdensome discretionary regulatory efforts, including those that are pending,” Conner wrote. “Many issues beyond those thought of as traditional agricultural policy have the potential to impact farmer co-ops and their farmer-members. These issues include environmental regulations, immigration and labor, food safety, access to international markets, financial services and tax policy.this country.


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While many regulatory actions are in response to statutory requirements, Conner wrote that “we've recently seen a host of regulations that extend beyond congressional intent. A prime example of this is the rule establishing Federal Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Florida Lakes and Flowing Waters that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated on January 26, 2010, but the criteria are not effective until March 6, 2012.”


In addition, Conner wrote that there are “many other planned discretionary actions that will harm the agriculture community or have the effect of creating great financial uncertainty in the sector such as the proposed rulemaking by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration relating to the livestock industry.”


Conner listed four other examples in the NCFC letter.


1. EPA - Revisions to PM-10 NAAQS - would make the regulation of coarse particles like farm

dust more stringent.


2. EPA - Revisions to livestock reporting requirements - EPA agreed in an out-of-court settlement to require livestock and poultry operations to submit, whether or not they are currently discharging, detailed information about their operations and to make that information available to the public in a searchable database available on the internet.


3. EPA - Revisions to the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Rule - EPA agreed in an out-of-court settlement to propose a rule by June 30, 2012, to increase the regulation of CAFOs and make it easier to subject small livestock operations to the mandatory requirements of the CWA.


4. EPA and Corps of Engineers Guidance on Identifying Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act - draft guidance available for public comment May 2, 2011. Final draft not yet issued.


“The concept is simple - now is not the time to increase the economic burden on the American farmer, particularly if that burden is being imposed as a matter of policy, at the discretion of an executive branch agency,” Conner emphasized.

The moratorium would also include promulgated regulations that are not yet effective or that have an extended compliance date. Some examples of these include: 


·         Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Regulations-The most recent amendments were effective January 14, 2010, but the compliance date for most farms facilities is November 10, 2011. The regulations threaten to impose significant compliance costs on any agricultural producer, farmer co-op or agribusiness storing any form of oil.

·         Federal Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Florida Lakes and Flowing Waters-The final rule was published January 26, 2010, but the criteria are not effective until March 6, 2012.

·         Boiler MACT Regulations-Effective dates are delayed.  The rule would cause significant new regulatory costs for agricultural processing facilities, including many farmer cooperatives.

·         Notification of Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act-The National Labor Relations Board issued a final rule requiring employers to post notices informing their employees of their rights to form a union.  The final rule was published August 30, 2011 effective date November 14, 2011.  


Another significant guidance that would be subject to the moratorium includes: 


·         EPA's spray drift guidance-This guidance proposed an unlikely to be achieved standard of zero drift and adopts a precautionary principle approach.  Public comment closed March 2010 and the guidance has not been officially withdrawn or issued in final form.


Finally, there are many regulations that are under development but that have not yet been proposed. If many of these were ever to be enacted, they would severely impact agriculture, says NCFC. Some examples include:


·         Revisions to CAFO Regulations.-EPA agreed in an out-of-court settlement with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that it will propose a rule by June 30, 2012, to increase the regulation of CAFOs and make it easier to designate an animal feeding operation as a CAFO. This has the potential to sweep thousands of smaller animal agriculture operations under federal government regulation.

·         Revisions to the exemption from CERCLA reporting for emissions from animal waste.

·         Revisions to the Clean Water Act (CWA) Water Quality Standards-The proposal could institute a default designated use of fishable and swimmable for a broad range of water bodies unless the state proves otherwise. This would alter current anti-degradation provisions.For the full text of the letter, go to:

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