By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Sept. 29 – With all the trappings of an official congressional hearing (except that no Democrats were present), 16 Republican members of Congress convened a forum Wednesday titled “The EPA’s Assault on Rural America: How New Regulations and Proposed Legislation are Stifling Job Creation and Economic Growth.”

At Wednesday's "EPA’s Assault on Rural America" forum, L to R, Reps. Robert Latta (R-OH), John Boozman (R-AR), Doc Hastings (R-WA), Frank Lucas (R-IA), Sam Graves (R-MO), and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). Photo: Agri-Pulse.

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) – in line to chair the committee if Republicans win back the House in November – opened the form by charging that “the EPA has become an agency gone wild, creating regulations and policies that are burdensome, overreaching and negatively affecting jobs and rural economies . . . the agency often ignores science, common sense, and seems to care little about how its actions impact our hardworking farmers and ranchers . . . Instead of operating within the law, EPA believes it can dictate to Congress that legislation needs to be passed for more government authority. And if Congress doesn't act, it threatens to regulate anyway.”

Lucas warned that “If EPA is allowed to continue down this path, the only choice for many farmers and ranchers will be to stop farming altogether . . . this administration fails to recognize that a command-and-control approach is no way to govern.”

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), who co-chairs the the Rural America Solutions Group along with Lucas and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), said that “Under cover of darkness, federal EPA bureaucrats are on the verge of killing thousands of rural jobs and communities through an arcane maze of rules and regulations that can only make sense to a lawyer in Washington, DC.” He added that “Proposed rules and bills that impose the federal government's reach on mud puddles, irrigation canals and driveways have left some wondering whether the EPA really stands for 'Eliminate Private Agriculture'.” He noted that despite the forum's invitation to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to attend the forum, “no representative is attending. This is unfortunate since it is EPA's failure to listen and learn that got us here in the first place.”

The seven expert witnesses who did show up delivered a consistent message which Idaho Water Users Association Executive Director Norman Semanko summed up: “overall, it appears that EPA is moving in a direction where a heavier regulatory hammer will be wielded, litigious actions will be encouraged through the use of 'citizen suits,' and products used by American farmers and ranchers in the production of food and fiber will be foremost in the sights of EPA regulators.”

Other witnesses zeroed in on specific issues. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Environmental Counsel Tamara Thies charged that the Obama's administration's environmental policies “appear to be aimed at destroying the cattle industry in America as we know it.” She said “EPA is waging an unprecedented war to end modern production of animal agriculture. EPA exhibits reckless indifference to scientific fact and, instead, imposes stringent regulations based on nothing more than its biased anti-animal agriculture agenda that will leave many cattle operations with no recourse but to shut down and eliminate jobs.”

U.S. Coal Corporation CEO Bob Gabbard of Kentucky testified that “the EPA has put together a well-coordinated plan to eliminate coal mining in the Appalachian region.”

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Associate Director for Public Affairs Wilmer Stoneman summed up the EPA threat this way: “Farmers and their way of life and livelihood have never felt more challenged or threatened than they do today by the continuous onslaught of regulations and requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency.”

National Sorghum Producers Chairman Gerald Simonsen from Nebraska said “In less than two years, Washington regulators at the EPA and other agencies have opened up, sped up, or tightened up regulatory reviews and restrictions concerning everything from Clean Water Act requirements for pesticide applications, to greenhouse gases, to plain old dust on America's farms.” He said EPA's “unprecedented” questioning of atrazine's safety has “little to do with science, and a lot to do with activist politics.” He concluded with two questions: “Why has an American agency decided to declare regulatory war on such a large swath of American people? And what can we do to restore reason to this process?”

The 16 members of the Rural America Solutions Group are Reps.:

Frank Lucas (R-OK) – Co-Chair
Doc Hastings (R-WA) – Co-Chair
Sam Graves (R-MO) – Co-Chair
Rob Bishop (R-UT)
Henry Brown (R-SC)
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)
Mike Conaway (R-TX
Steve King (R-IA)
Tom Latham (R-IA)
Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Tom McClintock (R-CA)
Adam Putnam (R-FL)
George Radonovich (R-CA)
Phil Roe (R-TN)
Adrian Smith (R-NE)

To watch a video of the “EPA's Assault” forum or read the written testimony, go to:

For Stewart Doan's audio about the Republican's forum on “The EPA's Assault on Rural America,” go to:

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