By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 – Farming interests spoke out loud and clear on the House floor Friday, voicing solid bipartisan support for rolling back federal regulations and reigning in “unelected bureaucrats.” House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., led off a rapid-fire assault on “burdensome regulations” by telling the House that “American agriculture is under attack.”

Lucas charged that “Every day the administration seems to demonstrate just how vastly disconnected it is from the folks who feed us. The administration fails to realize that rural America's economy is dependent on agriculture. The in-your-face approach that the administration has taken regarding government regulation has increased the cost of doing business for America's farmers and ranchers. If the administration is allowed to continue down this path, the only choice many farmers and ranchers will have will be to stop farming altogether.”

Zeroing in on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lucas said that “From the dairies of Vermont to the wheat fields near the Chesapeake Bay to the corn fields in the Midwest, American agriculture is under a constant barrage of irrational and unworkable regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, which are burdensome, overreaching and that negatively affect jobs and rural economies.” Citing EPA's proposed milk-spill, dust and pesticide regulations, Lucas said “This EPA is mostly interested in pursuing the extreme agenda of environmentalist groups without any consideration for the impact it will have on our farmers and ranchers.”

As consideration of House Resolution 72 to review all federal regulations continued, the Agriculture Committee's past Chair and now Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., was the only Democratic who spoke in the 40 minutes devoted to regulations affecting agriculture. Representing committee Democrats, Peterson said he fully agrees with Lucas regarding EPA regulations. But he pointed out that the Agriculture Committee doesn't have jurisdiction over the EPA and will need to work with other committees to “straighten out some of the things that are going on over at the EPA.” Peterson pledged that “the Democrats on the committee will work with the Republicans to make sure that we do the right things on the Agriculture Committee.”

Turning to Lucas' sharp criticisms of proposed new CFTC rules on derivatives trading and USDA's proposed GIPSA rules on livestock marketing, Peterson pointed out that “these are still proposed rules and they are going through the process and I have some optimism that at the end of the day, that those things are going to come to a point where they are reasonable.”

Peterson added that the CFTC is writing new derivatives rules because “this has been directed by the Congress . . . We had a $600 trillion market that was completely unregulated and it was a big part of this financial crisis and collapse that we had . . . it almost took down the entire world financial system. I would argue that a lot of what the CFTC is working on are things that have to be done. Not that I am a big fan of regulation, but in this case, the private sector went amok in some of these areas and I think we're going to have to require that they put their money up, they put up the capital and collateral that makes sure that we don't get in a situation again where the public has to bail out these financial firms.”

Congresswoman and farmer Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., began her floor speech by pointing out that “My Grandad Zellmer raised corn and threshed wheat with a threshing crew, and my Grandad Purdy was a cowboy raising Hereford cattle.” She said “It’s time to get government out of agriculture and preserve the farming heritage my parents and grandparents and so many others have passed on to future generations.” Then like Lucas and other Republicans, Hartzler focused on the EPA: “The EPA is advancing numerous proposals that are harmful to agriculture. One rule wants to regulate dust on our farms. They call it ‘air quality’. Where I’m from it’s called ‘living in the country.’ In case the bureaucrats in Washington haven’t heard, driving on a gravel road and planting seeds in soil makes ‘dust’! We don’t need Washington to regulate dust. We need common sense.”

Hartzler also joined Lucas in opposing EPA's decision to reconsider atrazine. She said atrazine is “a common, useful herbicide that has been used safely for over 50 years. This product encourages the protection of soil – and less dust – by using no-till agriculture.”

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