By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 10 – EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson opened her testimony in Thursday's House Agriculture Committee hearing on “the Impact of EPA Regulation on Agriculture” by voicing her “profound respect for the invaluable contribution that farmers make to our economy by producing food, fiber, and fuel for our country and the world” and for “the critical work that farmers are doing to protect our soil, air, and water resources.”

Jackson also acknowledged that “farmers operate under unique and challenging circumstances – small margins, international competition, and the difficulties of operating a small business – that complicate the task of making a living on the land.” Under questioning, she admitted she's a “city girl” from New Orleans. But she said she's been working closely with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, making it a point to familiarize herself with farm issues and to increase “EPA’s interaction with agriculture and the concerns of farmers across the country.”

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testifying in a House Agriculture Committee hearing Thursday. Photo: Agri-Pulse.

Next, Jackson focused on the need “to dispel certain myths about EPA's work and its impact on agriculture.” She said the myths “prevent real dialogue to address our greatest problems” and that Congress and EPA share “a responsibility to ensure that the American people have facts . . . particularly when the fictions are pushed by special interests.” She gave five examples of fact vs popular myth:

  • #1. The “cow tax” myth “was started in 2008 by a lobbyist . . . The truth is EPA has proposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a responsible, careful manner and we have exempted agricultural sources from that regulation.”

  • #2. As for the myth that EPA will expand regulation of farm dust, “We have no plans to do so.”

  • #3. On pesticide spray drift, “While no one supports pesticides wafting into our schools and communities, EPA does not support a no spray zone policy . . . but the incorrect belief that EPA is promulgating a no-drift policy persists.”

  • #4. Dismissing “the false notion that EPA is planning on mandating federal numeric nutrient limits for various states,” Jackson said Let me be clear. EPA is not working on any federal numeric nutrient limits.” She noted that “the case in Florida is unique. The last administration made a determination that federal numeric nutrient standards were necessary.”

  • #5. The myth that EPA will regulate spilled milk in the same way as spilled oil “is simply incorrect.” Instead, she explained, EPA on its own initiative has provided a specific exemption for spilled milk “because the law passed by Congress was written broadly enough to cover milk containment.”

When Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Tim Holden, D-Pa., and other congressmen pressed Jackson on the burdens that cleaning up Chesapeake Bay places on farmers, Jackson acknowledged that “agriculture has made real strides in reducing nutrient pollution.” But she added that “there's more to be done” and that it can be done best when states and farm groups work with EPA to come up with the best possible solutions.

Despite Jackson's assurances and her attempts to dispel myths, Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Ill., charged that EPA “has grossly violated and overstepped any reasonable limitations . . . your agency is the poster child for usurpation of legislative authority.”

After testifying in a series of congressional hearings over the past week with the prospect of many more to come, Jackson calmly repeated many of her answers and on several occasions noted that decisions and policies which congressmen complained about were “made by the Bush administration” or were “part of a Bush administration settlement.” In another frequent refrain when members complained that the EPA hasn't been thorough enough in counting all costs in its cost/benefit calculations, Jackson repeatedly pointed to “preventive medicine” benefits which far outweigh costs.

As one example of benefits, Jackson pointed to new Boiler MACT rules announced in February for boilers and some incinerators. She said that with these new rules to cut toxic air emissions, “EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to cut these pollutants, the public will see between $10 to $24 in health benefits, including avoiding between 2,600 and 6,600 premature deaths, preventing 4,100 heart attacks and averting 42,000 asthma attacks per year.”

To read more about Thursday's House Agriculture hearing on “the Impact of EPA Regulation on Agriculture,” with Lisa Jackson as the sole witness , click HERE.

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