WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2017 – During much of the Obama administration, it was one of the worst kept secrets in farm country that many saw regulations as agriculture’s longest four-letter word. Action taken today by President Donald Trump might address some of that concern.
Trump this morning signed an executive order aimed at regulatory reform efforts. Drawing most of the attention is a new policy stating that for every new regulation put forward, two old regulations must be withdrawn.
“There will be regulation, there will be control, but it will be normalized control,” Trump said Monday in the Oval Office flanked by business owners.
Calls for regulatory reform are familiar to those in agricultural circles, where farmers and ranchers have commonly expressed consternation at the number of rules to which their industry is subject. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts, R-Kan., commonly trots out the anecdote that a producer in his district complained to him that he feels “ruled, not governed,”
Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, told Agri-Pulse that NPPC is generally supportive of the order as a means to make sure farmers, ranchers, and business owners “aren’t overburdened.”
“While there’s constantly new regulations added, there’s never any taken away,” Warner said. “At some point, something’s got to give.”
In the legislative process, bills passed by Congress commonly require rulemaking by executive branch agencies. Warner says that rulemaking can get to such a point where regulations might be duplicative or outside the intent of Congress. NPPC isn’t necessarily trying to slice current regulations to a lower quota, Warner said, but NPPC members think a healthy look at what’s on the books could be a good thing.
“It’s not a matter of numbers … do they work and are they something that Congress actually asked for?” Warner said.
But others aren’t so sure.
“It’s unworkable,” Ferd Hoefner, senior strategic adviser with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said in an interview with Agri-Pulse. He pointed to how the provision could hit agriculture’s chief legislative priority – the upcoming farm bill – and keep it from being fully implemented.
“Essentially, Congress would pass a new farm bill in 2018, and USDA would have to pick and choose a couple of things to implement because they (only) have a handful of things that they can get rid of,” Hoefner added.
The order also sets a regulatory fiscal cap of a zero dollars for fiscal 2017. That cap would set the total incremental cost of all new regulations finalized this year, unless otherwise directed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
There’s also confusion about how the withdrawal of regulations would work. If a new regulation is produced by the Agriculture Department, would two USDA regulations need to go or would regulations from another department also be up for grabs? What about rulemaking that updates programs but is not a completely new regulation such as annual blending targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard?
The order simply states that whenever a new regulation is promulgated or offered up for public comment, the proposing agency or department “shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.”
“To the extent this stays in place and doesn’t get modified, you’re going to have a lot of people at a lot of agencies and outside organizations digging through to see where there’s any dead weight that would be easy to throw overboard,” Hoefner said.
For their part, Warner says NPPC doesn’t have a list of regulations that might be outdated or duplicative, but was forming one.