If you go to EPA’s website and look at the agency’s mission statement, you will find bullet points that detail its role in society.
One bullet reads: EPA’s purpose is to ensure that environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable, and economically productive. Two words jumped out at me in that sentence — “economically productive.”
We’ve all heard the joke President Reagan made famous: “The most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I am here to help.’” But, isn’t that what governments are there to do? You might say our founders wanted government to largely stay out of our way.
If you ask farmers if the EPA exists to help or harm agriculture, how do you think the vast majority would answer? I am placing my chips on harm. When you look at recent actions by the agency, whether it be redefining the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) and the ever-growing list of crop protection materials that have already been banned or are under threat, I am pretty sure my bet is safe.
In May, three farmers took to Capitol Hill to testify before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry about the increasingly adversarial relationship with EPA.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Richard Ebert told the committee it is impossible for farmers to understand EPA’s science and respond to its demands while continuing to perform the tasks needed to run their farms.
And, Ebert testified the agency is promoting false information: “EPA and its cohorts point fingers and paint agriculture — farmers just like me — as a villain that impairs water quality in the [Chesapeake] Bay. But their accusations are in direct conflict with U.S. Geological Survey data — which showed pretty positive gains on water quality in tributaries throughout the bay watershed. These gains are not because of our revised bay strategy or EPA’s model. It merely demonstrates what agriculture has been doing for decades through increased knowledge, additional opportunities, technology, and time.”
Florida grower Kate English also testified the agency is impeding farmers’ ability to grow food. She spoke of WOTUS specifically.
She testified: “A farmer shouldn’t have to have a lawyer and an engineer on staff to grow food. The [WOTUS] rule not only expands the regulatory footprint for farming and increases the uncertainty we battle daily, but also it lacks peer-reviewed sound science. These regulations appear instead to be based on public opinion and social media trends rather than facts and science. The result is a highly unpredictable regulatory environment and uncontrolled costs when faced with compliance based on a moving target rather than a rational, science-based goal.”
A common theme I see in these complaints about EPA is it appears to be taking action more and more based on ideology and public opinion rather than sound science. If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should, because there is a lot of public opinion making the rounds these days that is totally delusional. Farming is hard enough as it is without having EPA’s boot on agriculture’s neck to score likes of Facebook. For an agency that claims it wants to protect America and promote “economically productive” communities, it is time for taxpayers, the President, and Congress to take a hard look at EPA when evidence appears its intention is to harm the men and women who feed and clothe us.