A group of U.S. agricultural entities calls for a moratorium on regulation.
If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, you know my feelings on the overabundance of government regulations controlling agriculture.
It’s an insidious encroachment. Fortunately, I’m not alone in my opinions. In October, 78 mainstream U.S. agricultural associations, farmer co-ops and agribusinesses called for “a two-year moratorium on all discretionary, non-essential regulatory actions that would increase the cost of food and agricultural production and processing.”
Is it too much to ask that federal policy not undermine the economic viability of farmers and ranchers? Is there that big of a disconnect between government and agriculture?
Enough is enough, especially in this gloomy economy. The group of 78 sent a letter, quoted above, calling on Congress “to ensure that federal policy avoids or minimizes cost increases that will hit farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses across the U.S.
“Unfortunately, current actions by federal agencies threaten to do the opposite. Therefore, we feel extraordinary measures are called for to reduce the climate of uncertainty created by burdensome regulations, including those that are pending.”
Furthermore, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives specifically requested that “all rules subject to Office of Management and Budget review as significant regulatory actions are required to include a regulatory impact analysis that identifies the cost to the regulated community as well as the benefits of the rule. These documents can be used to identify the regulatory actions that would increase the net costs of agricultural production.”
The ag groups’ requests are reasonable. Realizing that some regulations are necessary in today’s world, NCFC further recommended standard Congressional language listing four exemptions if the rule is: 1) necessary because of an imminent threat to health or safety or other emergency; 2) necessary for the enforcement of criminal laws; 3) necessary for national security; or 4) issued pursuant to any statute implementing an international trade agreement.
What led to 78 ag groups making this request?
I have noted before in this space the number of proposals in just the past couple of years that have underscored the disconnect between producers and politicians: climate-change proposals that would fundamentally change agriculture, estate taxes that become confiscatory, capital gains taxes that discourage transfer of land to children, clean air initiatives that hamstring agriculture, clean water initiatives that defy common sense, and various other proposals that tie up time and money and keep people focused on everything except the business of raising food and fiber.
Add in assaults by animal rights groups like HSUS and PETA, and you start to understand the scope of the current mess in which agriculture finds itself.
Keep foremost in mind 21 million U.S. jobs are tied to agriculture.
Regulations have real-world effects that far too many in Congress and in the Administration seem unable to grasp—or worse, care nothing about.
Two recently proposed rules that highlight the mess include a duplicative pesticide requirement which, like it says, requires multiple permits. The other is the oil-spill containment rule mandating costly physical structures on farms on which diesel fuel is stored. Thank the newly politicized Environmental Protection Agency for that one.
In yet another, with Farm Bureau leading a counter assault, EPA retreated from its attempt to regulate dust, denying its intentions to affect agriculture even in full retreat. But don’t let EPA’s denials fool you. If government controls dust, government controls agriculture.
If this past century has taught us anything, if we can watch the Soviet Union collapse, if we can watch the European Union stagger under the yolk of excessive entitlement, surely we can conclude more government control is not better government. And more regulation does not equal a safer society. It equals a more controlled society with all the baggage that entails.
When the most important task at hand for today’s farmers or for the businesses that serve them is trying to keep an agency’s hand out of day-to-day operations, something is fundamentally out of alignment.
Fortunately, today’s political climate is finally playing a role in halting this regulatory onslaught. Let’s hope that obstacle continues to hold.
Bill Streeter is President and CEO of MFA Incorporated.