The Environmental Protection Agency was established to protect the environment. However, under the Obama administration, it has become a pitbull, putting the bite on industry after industry with special attention to agriculture. Now, finally, companies, Congress, and even ordinary people are standing up and saying enough is enough. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. The order establishing the EPA was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. Today the House and Senate are trying to put the regulatory genie they uncorked back into the bottle.
The issue that has sparked a bitter battle between farmers and regulators is the Waters of the U.S. Rule. Proposed by the agency and approved by the White House, this rule has been called the biggest land grab in history. The proposal would give the federal government regulatory jurisdiction over every ditch, pond, and puddle in the U.S. While the courts have put a temporary hold on enforcement of the rule, it has not stopped the agency from going after some farming operations.
Claiming that he violated its Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS), the EPA is going after fourth-generation tree, vine, and wheat grower John Duarte for plowing his own land. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are attempting to prevent Duarte, and farmers like him in California’s Central Valley, from plowing the land; and as Duarte claims, it may be trying to chase them off their own land in order to turn it into habitat preservation. Duarte’s case will go to trial next month, and his attorney stated, “Anyone who’s being told not to worry about the new WOTUS rule, they should be thinking about this case.”
Not only has the EPA been overzealous on regulations of farming operations, it has also been overly strict on the tools that farmers use. The agency recently asked the manufacturer of a crop protection product to withdraw its product from the market. In a move that shows the level of frustration that businesses have with the EPA, the manufacturer said no. On Friday, the agricultural unit of German chemicals company Bayer AG said it will fight an EPA request to pull one of its insecticides from the marketplace amid concerns that it could harm organisms in streams and ponds. The company asserts that the EPA is being overly cautious when assessing the environmental risks. The company’s field studies showed that doses in waters near agricultural fields never reached high enough levels to be toxic. “We are disappointed the EPA places so much trust on computer modeling and predictive capabilities when real-world monitoring shows no evidence of concern after seven years of safe use,” said Peter Coody, Bayer Vice President of Environmental Safety. The EPA’s move follows the agency’s unsuccessful attempt to withdraw its registration for Dow Chemical Company’s Enlist Duo weed killer.
Farmers and ag companies are not the only ones fighting back against EPA overreach. A recent survey in the Chesapeake Bay area showed that the public is losing faith in the EPA. A Farm Bureau sponsored poll conducted by Morning Consult shows that residents of the Chesapeake Bay region believe their local governments should have authority when it comes to protecting their water. The poll results showed that 62 percent of respondents said they were less likely to support the EPA’s Bay regulations because they would put a number of local farmers out of business due to restrictions and high regulatory costs. The Chesapeake Bay was a landmark case that put the EPA in charge of regulating farming operations in the area in an effort to clean up and protect the bay.
As farmers have told the EPA over and over and over, they also want clean water, clean air, and less environmental impact. All they are asking is that they be allowed to work with the environmentalists to achieve these goals while still being able to produce food, fiber, and fuel. The top down, our way or no way attitude of regulators in Washington is not working, thus it is not helping the environment. Now farmers, businesses, and the public are pushing back. Federal government regulation at all levels is an issue that needs to be addressed, but nowhere more so than the EPA.
By Gary Truitt