Photo by George Lauby
Sen. Mike Johanns
Our nation’s ag producers have a vested interest in caring for the environment. For centuries, farmers and ranchers have depended on healthy and abundant natural resources for their livelihoods.So it would stand to reason that the ag community would find an ally in the Environmental Protection Agency.
Yet America’s farmers and ranchers continually find themselves on the receiving end of overly harsh, costly and often unnecessary EPA regulations.
It has become a common theme in discussions with Nebraska’s ag producers during my travels throughout our state. EPA’s seemingly relentless efforts to expand its regulatory reach on farm operations have generated a great deal of concern and uncertainty, and have left many producers wondering how much EPA really understands or even cares about how America gets its food.
From attempts to regulate livestock methane emissions to proposals imposing waterway rules on often-dry pasture ponds, to the careless dissemination of personal information of thousands of ag producers, EPA has developed a sordid reputation of being out of touch with the ag community.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who took the helm at the federal agency last summer, recently expressed a willingness to work with farmers and ranchers on proposed regulations, and we intend to hold her to it.
So last week, I joined my Republican colleagues on the Senate agriculture committee in requesting a meeting to express these concerns with Administrator McCarthy, and get a better understanding of EPA’s commitment to rebuilding its trust and credibility with America’s farmers and ranchers.
Improving EPA’s rapport with ag producers must start with an open and honest dialogue about EPA’s agenda and its impact on ag production. But it can’t stop there. If Administrator McCarthy is serious about working with the Ag community on our mutual desire to care for the environment, our concerns should be reflected in EPA’s actions.
Until we see results, I will continue to push back firmly against EPA’s onslaught of burdensome regulations, which extend beyond just agriculture.
Many of EPA’s proposed regulations carry a hefty price tag in compliance costs and potential fines that could be passed along to consumers in the form of higher food and energy costs. Some proposals actually extend beyond the agency’s authority granted by Congress.
I’ve sponsored numerous pieces of legislation aimed at addressing these concerns, including bills requiring EPA to report on the economic impacts of its proposed regulations, and measures promoting a competitive energy market to keep important manufacturing jobs in the United States.
These efforts are not intended to get rid of EPA or to score political points. They are reasonable and measured in an attempt to put an end to EPA’s overly-burdensome rules, and protect hardworking Americans from skyrocketing energy prices and other harmful consequences that threaten our economic recovery.
A healthy and clean environment is certainly worth fighting for, and being responsible stewards of our natural resources should be a shared goal. Congress and EPA must work together to find solutions within the scope of federal law that balance important environmental protections with protecting the livelihoods of our farmers, ranchers and businesses owners.
I will continue working to achieve these goals.
Mike Johanns is Nebraska's senior U.S. Senator.