By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 – The House voted decisively 235-189 early Saturday morning to pass its Continuing Resolution (CR). The H.R. 1 vote would slash federal spending by over $61 billion for the remaining seven months of fiscal 2011. The next step is for Senate to take up the controversial measure when it returns Feb. 28.

Likely reflecting widespread farm country feeling, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall welcomed the House vote. “We urge the Senate to follow suit if they plan to stop government overreach and job stifling regulations,” he said. Woodall particularly welcomed the fact that during the often contentious four-day debate, the House added amendments to block a broad range of Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations, including withdrawing funds for implementing dust regulations, for stringent Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution rules for the Chesapeake Bay, and for Florida water standard rules.

“I hope the activists turned government officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were listening to the very clear signal sent by the U.S. House of Representatives that enough is enough.” Woodall said. “Our elected leaders are growing weary of defending this agency that appears to be determined to put farmers and ranchers out of business. Burdensome, job stifling regulations are never a good thing. But when you have a struggling economy on the verge of a rebound, government overreach is definitely not a way to stimulate job growth and economic recovery. On behalf of U.S. cattlemen and women, I commend Representatives Kristi Noem, R-S.D., Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Tom Rooney, R-Fla. for leading the charge against overregulation and in support of economic growth in rural America and throughout the country.”

Echoing passionate pre-dawn exchanges on the House floor, Woodall explained that “As a cattle rancher, Rep. Noem understands that dust is a part of farming and ranching. It seems like a no-brainer, but apparently EPA officials haven’t stepped off the city sidewalks lately. We are thankful Rep. Noem’s commonsense and knowledge of the agricultural industry prevailed in the House over attempts to regulate family farmers and ranchers out of business. Regulating dust on a farm or ranch is like regulating flour in a bakery. Quite simply, it is ridiculous. Almost every farm and ranch in the country would be found noncompliant for going about their everyday activities ranging from driving a truck on a gravel road or moving cattle from one lot to the next. We all need to stop and question EPA’s motives since it is well known that scientific studies have never shown, whatsoever, that agricultural dust at ambient levels causes health concerns.”

During the House debate, Democrats repeatedly noted that EPA regulations were the result of congressional mandates and court rulings, not EPA “overreach.” Democrats also pointed to substantial costs savings from setting new air quality and water quality standards and questioned why Republicans would wish to drive up the federal deficit by rolling back environmental safeguards. In the case of EPA's proposal to tighten existing dust standards, Rep. James Moran, R-Va., said that although EPA is considering changes, any changes would be implemented by states and localities, not EPA, and would be unlikely to affect farmers or ranchers. In the case of the Chesapeake Bay, Moran said Goodlatte's “flawed” amendment would mean not just blocking EPA funding to impose limits on nutrient runoff into the bay but would block USDA from making conservation program payments to farmers and livestock producers.

Clearly unimpressed by the Democrats' arguments, Woodall said that “Representatives Goodlatte and Rooney, both from states where agriculture is extremely important, understand the need for peer reviewed science before you impose regulations that would cause for sale signs to become a frequent occurrence on farms and ranchers across the country. Rep. Goodlatte’s amendment to stop funding for EPA to implement its TMDL rule for the Chesapeake Bay, which is based on flawed scientific assumptions, could also prevent the model from becoming a template for other watersheds. EPA’s data was even proven inaccurate by another agency in the same administration. One would think that contradiction would encourage EPA to take another look. Rep. Rooney’s amendment would protect cattle producers in Florida from EPA’s extremely detrimental, scientifically indefensible nutrient criteria rule. Both of these rules, if implemented, will cost cattle producers millions of dollars in compliance costs, financially devastate state economies and erase thousands of jobs.

Specific votes early Saturday morning included:

Voting 261 – 158 for amendment 377 by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to block funding for ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities.

Voting 285 – 136 for amendment 94 by Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., to block funds to increase the ethanol level allowed to 15%, E15.

Voting 245 – 176 for amendment 47 by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., to block funds to complete a study of Missouri River projects.

Voting 235 – 185 for amendment 109 by Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., to block funds to impose new Clean Water Act restrictions on coal industry mountain top removal.

Voting 240 – 182 for amendment 216 by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., to block funds to enable EPA to retroactively withdraw clean water permits.

Voting 239 – 183 for amendment 217 by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., to block funds for EPA regulations that list coal ash as hazardous waste subject to regulation under the Solid Waste Disposal Act.

Voting 255-168 for amendment 563 by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., to block funds for EPA's proposed new dust standard.

Voting 237- 189 for amendment 13 by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., to block funding to implement new water quality standards for Florida.

Voting 234 – 187 for amendment 545 by Rep. Michael Pompeo, R-Kan., to block funds for providing a publicly available consumer product safety information database.

For other vote results, click here and click here and click here.

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