Regulatory impacts ripple nationwide

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EPA’s NPDES ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ could costs farmers more than $900 million.

ATLANTA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is engaging in a power grab that threatens the future of production agriculture in the U.S., according to two state officials.

A lack of careful oversight by Congress has allowed the agency’s personnel to contrive policies that lack both scientific peer review and common sense, according to Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Charles H. Bronson, who served as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture from 2000 to 2010.

The officials made their comments during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting in Atlanta.

Emissions and tractors. Shaw said EPA “is trying to be very creative, making their own rules” to the Clean Air Act.

More stringent air emission regulations proposed by the EPA for Texas will set a threshold for most internal combustion engines used on farms and ranches, including relatively small machines with 20 horsepower.

But the agency’s goal may be even more ominous, Shaw declared. The regulations will force governments and businesses across the nation to adopt different types of energy sources, regardless of the cost.

If allowed to stand, the new regulatory burden will be implemented across the nation. Agricultural producers will face steady price spikes in fuel, fertilizer and transportation.

“It is going to raise the cost of everything,” for everyone else, Shaw said.

“We need to have a more scientifically open and transparent process,” he said. “We need to have an honest debate with the American people about the cost of this policy.”

In Florida, it’s water. Bronson expressed extreme concern about the EPA’s handling of Florida’s attempts to develop reliable numeric nutrient criteria for water bodies.

In 2008, the agency settled a lawsuit with environmental groups over the issue by agreeing to establish nutrient criteria for the entire state. The agreement ignored years of scientific research by the state Department of Environmental Protection, experts at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and other qualified sources.

Under the agreement, state government will be locked out of the process.

According to Bronson, the new package of regulations has never been peer reviewed. More importantly, the regulations will inflict a massive burden upon the state’s citizens.

“Even a clear underground stream will not meet the standard(s),” he said. “We believe that it will cost agriculture $4 billion to $10 billion a year to meet the standards.”

NPDES requirements. Bronson said he was worried that EPA’s managers intend to revise National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements. Under this expected change, any transfer of water must be authorized by a permit.

“Every farm would have to have a filtration system of some kind on the water before it leaves for another location,” he said.

This “bureaucratic nightmare” would be enormously expensive. Bronson estimated that the cost for farmers and ranchers would range from $900 million to $1.6 billion, with a loss of 1,400 jobs.

The same scenario is in store for other states if such water policies are not successfully opposed.

See you in court. Bronson and other state officials have challenged the new standards in court. He noted that some environmental activists “act like it is not going to cost anybody anything to do these things. It is going to cost all of us.”

The speakers urged Congress to examine the content of legislation before adopting it so that EPA and other federal agencies cannot exercise legislative power in administering environmental law.

“Without Congress stepping in and holding EPA’s feet to the fire, it is not going to change,” Shaw added.

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