Midwestern agriculture battles nature and the role of government
Writing this column in late July makes it difficult to be timely. September weather is unknowable. Right now drought dominates the agricultural conversation. Drought is devastating, especially because it is so widespread and temperatures exceeded 100 degrees for such a long stretch.
Crop farmers have the option of crop insurance. Still, drought robs these producers of opportunity costs and restricts income at a time when payments are due, college bills arrive and the costs of day-to-day living remain.
Livestock farmers are in trouble. What started as an excellent cattle market has been depressed because of the widespread effects of ranchers liquidating herds due to scarce forage and high feed costs. Effects of those liquidations will be felt for years.
But farmers and ranchers are resilient. We’ve all been through this before. We’ll get through it this time, too. It sounds simple, but a positive attitude is important. I deal with farmers and ranchers on a daily basis. I have a row-crop farm myself and deal with the same issues on a personal basis.
During this crisis, government has been helpful in its legitimate role. USDA simplified the disaster decision process and has been flexible on haying and grazing CRP. Plus, government has lowered interest rates on FSA emergency loans.
But as we all know too well, government today is a two-edged sword. I know it’s troubling to switch from drought to the topic of water and from the positive role of government to the illegitimate, but all MFA members need to be skeptical of government and its agencies as pertains to the Clean Water Act. In Missouri, we have our own battles with the Clean Water Act and the Missouri River.
But nationally, the Clean Water Act is being eyed by environmental extremists and their cohorts in today’s government. By twisting the intent of the law specifically by trying to ignore the word “navigable,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are attempting to regulate every drop of water on a private landowner’s property. This drought makes it even more ironic.
All of us owe a debt of thanks to American Farm Bureau and its state affiliates for their efforts in opposition to Clean Water Act mismanagement. American Farm Bureau is engaged in a nationwide campaign to “Stop the Flood of Regulations.” The efforts deserve our support.
Allow me to quote Bob Stallman, president of American Farm Bureau.
A $30,000 Ditch
For some time, the EPA and Corps have been trying to remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act through what is called a “Guidance Document.” This would change the very meaning of the CWA to allow for such frivolous action as regulating a roadside ditch that holds water for only a few hours after a 4-inch rain….
But, EPA and the Corps’ action to improperly use the Guidance Document to remove “navigable” bypasses congressional intent and ignores Supreme Court precedent. For the past 10 years, Congress has voted specifically and repeatedly to keep the term “navigable” in the CWA. We believe this Guidance Document is not only bad policy but is being implemented through a regulatory sleight of hand.
Farmers, ranchers and private landowners need to preserve the authority the CWA has granted states and localities for nearly 40 years and stop the deluge of regulations and permitting requirements that will likely result if the Guidance Document is finalized. The two agencies are piling on regulatory burdens with little regard for the costs for landowners. These costs, which could be upwards of $30,000, with increased permit requirements and reduced nutrient applications, are very real and have direct impacts on the farm.
I want to thank Farm Bureau for taking the lead in this battle.
We can’t control nature, but we can certainly do our best to pull the teeth of these Washington agencies when they implement the will of radical environmental groups.
Despite all that, I assure you that MFA and its employees, in this time of drought stress, have the utmost sympathies for MFA member/owners during this dry season.
Bill Streeter is President and CEO of MFA Incorporated.