By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 2 – Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., delivered a Senate floor speech Wednesday examining federal regulations he considers “burdensome and harmful to agriculture and consumers.”

The speech continues Roberts' efforts to ensure the Obama administration carries out the president’s executive order to review regulations harmful to the economy. This is the first in a series of four floor speeches Roberts will give featuring federal environmental, health and financial regulations which he considers damage different sectors of the economy. Roberts has highlighted concerns raised by media reports that many federal agencies claim they are not subject to the president’s regulatory review because they already meet all of the commitments in the executive order.

Last month, Roberts introduced the “Regulatory Responsibility for our Economy Act,” S. 358, to strengthen and codify the president’s Jan. 18 Executive Order “to ensure the president’s order is carried out to review, modify, streamline, expand, or repeal those significant regulatory actions, that are duplicative, unnecessary, burdensome, or would have significant economic impacts on Americans.” The legislation has 30 cosponsors.

Roberts’ speech covered regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). His remarks focused on potentially costly impacts on farmers, ranchers and consumers. Roberts' speech covered these points:

Redundant, Confusing and Costly Clean Water Regulations - EPA

“Since fiscal year 2010, ten new regulations promulgated by the EPA have accounted for over $23 billion in new costs to the American taxpayer,” Roberts said. “And they’re just getting started. EPA has several new proposals, many of which will have immediate negative impacts on the ability of America’s farmers and ranchers to continue to produce enough food to feed our communities, our states, our country and the world.

In seven weeks, EPA will require farmers who are applying pesticides to obtain a permit under the federal Clean Water Act-- even though that activity is already highly-regulated under the federal pesticide law.

Estimates suggest this duplicative regulation will require 365,000 individuals to get a Clean Water Act permit-- a requirement that will cost $50 million and require 1 million hours per year to implement and does not add further environmental protection.

“This layer of red tape will place a huge financial burden on the shoulders of farm families all across the country-- as well as state governments responsible for enforcement while at the same time facing dire budget situations,” Roberts said.”In fact, due to confusion about the new regulations, farmers and other pesticide applicators may very well find themselves subject to massive penalties for a minor paperwork violation-- to the tune of $37,500 per day per violation.”

Redundant, Confusing and Costly Clean Air Regulations-EPA

As part of its review of the PM 10 standard under the Clean Air Act, EPA is currently considering the most stringent regulations on farm dust that have ever been proposed.

“To put it simply-- this defies common sense,” Senator Roberts said. “Whether it is cattle kicking up dust in a feedlot in Larned, Kansas or wheat being harvested on a hot afternoon on the High Plains in June, dust is a naturally-occurring event. Standards beyond the current limit would be impossible to meet, particularly in the western portion of the nation where rainfall is often scarce.”

In a bipartisan June letter, 23 Senators wrote a letter to express these concerns to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stating: “Considering the Administration’s focus on rural America and rural economic development, a proposal such as this could have a negative effect on those very goals. . . Common sense requires the EPA to acknowledge that the wind blows and so does dust.”

“As we think about EPA’s actions impacting agriculture,” Roberts said. “it is critical to recognize that no one cares more about maintaining a clean environment than the American farmer and rancher. They know firsthand that clean air and water and healthy soil go hand-in-hand with a healthy economy. Our producers deserve respect and appreciation from the EPA, not costly and redundant regulation.”

Red Tape and GIPSA-USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) released a proposed rule that would dramatically increase the red tape governing the business relationships surrounding production and marketing of livestock in the United States. The rule was initially proposed last summer without the benefit of a meaningful cost-benefit analysis.

As written, the proposal would dramatically reduce consumer choice and increase costs. The proposal exposes packers to liability for use of alternative marketing arrangements and other innovative procurement methods-- thereby ultimately depressing the prices received for America’s most efficient and successful producers while potentially reducing the quality available to consumers.

The proposed rule could actually increase concentration in the sector as businesses are forced to change their current organizational structure-- exacerbating the very issue the rule is allegedly designed to address.

“If implemented,” Roberts said, “the GIPSA rule poses a substantial threat to the continued viability of the domestic livestock sector. In Kansas, this industry contributes over $9.5 billion to our economy. With an economic footprint of this magnitude, the GIPSA regulation is a burden that Kansas and many other rural states cannot afford.”

Dozens of New Regs and New Burdens-CFTC

“The CFTC is currently pushing 40 plus rules out the door; in one year; with little to no prioritization,” Senator Roberts said. “We were told the intent of Dodd-Frank was to reduce systemic risk in the financial marketplace. However, several of CFTC’s proposals appear to increase risk management costs on those who do not pose a systemic threat.

“CFTC must be mindful that increased costs through high margin and capital requirements on certain segments of the marketplace may decrease a user’s ability to use appropriate risk management tools.

“A rigorous cost-benefit analysis is tailor-made for the CFTC’s current situation: dozens of economically-significant rules; the potential to negatively impact risk management costs of American businesses; and a simple question needing to be answered: ‘do the benefits of this proposed regulation in the form of lower systemic risk in our financial system outweigh the increased costs on businesses?’”

Concluding his speech Senator Roberts said, “We must truly commit to a robust review and revocation of any and all unduly burdensome regulations that could inhibit American agriculture’s ability to produce the safest, most abundant and affordable food, feed and fiber supply in the world.”

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