By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 10 – In a town where bipartisanship has become a dirty word, the House Agriculture Committee displayed nearly solid bipartisanship Thursday in a hearing on “the Impact of EPA Regulation on Agriculture.”

Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., opened the four-hour session by telling EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that EPA is “creating regulations and policies that are burdensome, overreaching, and that negatively affect jobs and rural economies.” He complained that “In many instances, the agency is ignoring congressional intent and looks to be bullying Congress. Instead of simply administering the law, EPA challenges Congress to pass legislation that gives it more authority. And if Congress doesn't act, it will regulate anyway.” Lucas told Jackson that “farmers & ranchers believe your agency is attacking them.”

Not to be outdone in blasting EPA, Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told Jackson that farmers see EPA as an “out of control agency that doesn't understand agriculture.” Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Ill., charged that the EPA has been conducting a “systematic attack on American farmers” and that the agency has “violated and overstepped any reasonable limitations.” Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, told Jackson that “farmers fear EPA” and “believe you are putting them out of business, almost intentionally.”

Explaining he's an active seventh-generation farmer “committed to leaving the world a better place,” Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., asked Jackson “where does the jurisdiction stop for the EPA?” He told Jackson “The EPA is out of control . . . I've handled more pesticides probably than all of this group together all of my lifetime and I'm pretty healthy.”

Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, then took the debate to a new level. He began by telling Jackson that “the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act have been extended way beyond what their initial intent is and this has become a huge drain on our economy.” He said that because the EPA and the courts have gone far beyond the intent of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, “it is time to repeal both those bills, both of those acts and start over.” Neugebauer insisted that “I am for clean air and I am for clean water, but we are at a tipping point in this country where I believe that the environmental laws have superseded individual property rights.”

Chairman Lucas wasn't prepared to go as far as Neugebauer. Instead, he told Agri-Pulse after the hearing that repealing the Clean Air and Clean Water acts “probably is a topic for a different day.” Commenting on the hearing overall, he said “I think today was an opportunity for the House Agriculture Committee in a bipartisan way to begin to get the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency and the 112th session of Congress. There will be more hearings at subcommittee level, potentially more hearings at full committee level. You heard frustrations, you heard some very legitimate points today. This is our part of an ongoing effort to help make sure the EPA follows the law, follows sound science and takes into consideration the cost of the things they seem to want to do.”

To read Lisa Jackson's responses to the concerns raised by the House Agriculture Thursday, click HERE.

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