Are Today’s Agriculture Regulations Ripe for Reform? [Opinion]

Are Today’s Agriculture Regulations Ripe for Reform? [Opinion]

Scanning ahead to the early days of the Donald Trump Administration, there remain a lot of uncertainties. But one thing is clear — it will definitely be different. How President Trump’s actions shake out for agriculture remains to be seen. His stance on trade and immigration might have the farm sector a little rattled, but regulatory reform could be a bright spot for agriculture.

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Growers have felt the regulatory burden for years and insist it has affected their profitability and productivity. Trump has been clear that he is no fan of regulations, even pledging for every new regulation added to the books, two existing regulations must be repealed.

Farm groups are taking Trump at his word and already are lobbying for regulatory relief. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) issued a white paper in December titled “Regulatory Improvement And Reform: A Priority For American Agriculture.” The paper was endorsed by 53 different agricultural organizations.

Near the top of the regulatory relief agenda will be curbing EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. According to the AFBF, the rule should be an easy target because EPA failed to provide transparency and consult with states when crafting the rule as is dictated by the Clean Water Act.

As Paul Schlegel, Director of Environment and Energy Policy for AFBF, noted in a recent column on WOTUS: “Astonishingly, EPA finalized the rule before it had even finalized its scientific study. It used dubious economic calculations, and the Office of Advocacy with the U.S. Small Business Administration even pointed out the agency had violated its obligations to gauge the impact on small businesses. Perhaps most flagrantly, the agency overstepped its bounds with a social media campaign designed to obscure widespread opposition and predetermine the outcome of the proceedings. The agency’s misconduct was so striking that the U.S. Government Accountability Office declared that EPA violated the Antideficiency Act by engaging in unlawful conduct.”

In addition to looking to the Trump Administration for regulatory relief, AFBF is urging Congress to step up and take a greater role by having up or down votes on major regulations like WOTUS. So, when an agency like EPA is sued, which they always are, judges won’t simply defer to the agency’s interpretation of the law or its own regulations.

These so-called “citizen lawsuits” have increased the number and range of policy decisions by the courts. Today, many policies are decided by a handful of judges on appellate courts or even single judges in federal district courts. That’s not very representative of the will of the people.
A hint to where Trump’s head is at when it comes to EPA is his nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the agency. He has been a vocal critic of EPA. The “regulatory class” erupted with howls of disapproval of the nomination.

In a news release announcing the Pruitt nomination, Trump said: “For too long, the EPA has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control, anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn.”

It is nice to see him recognize farmers specifically in the quote. Hopefully, the President appreciates your vital role in the American economy — not to mention feeding us all.