The Hill: Farm Bureau, House Ag chairman agree on need for EPA oversight

A major U.S. farm group and the Republican chairman of the House Agriculture Committee agree on the need for greater oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) policy decisions on farmers, and hearings on EPA regulations are expected in that House committee later this year.

The American Farm Bureau Federation held its annual meeting in Atlanta this week, and released a statement Tuesday that said EPA needs more oversight because the agency's regulations are threatening the ability of farmers to produce agricultural commodities. "EPA often does not recognize the contributions that farmers and ranchers have made to reduce soil loss and produce more with less land, water, nutrients and other inputs,” said Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman. “We need more common sense and less negativity toward production agriculture in the enforcement of the nation’s existing environmental statutes.”

The Farm Bureau on Jan. 10 said it would file a federal suit to stop the EPA's plan to curb pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, which the group says will seriously hurt farms in the region.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) already supported EPA oversight, and said last week he wants to make sure the EPA cannot impose standards that "would cripple American agriculture and stifle economic growth in rural communities." Today, Lucas welcomed the Farm Bureau's official position, and promised more EPA oversight.

"I want to commend the Farm Bureau for taking a strong stance on one of the most significant issues facing American agriculture: the hostile regulatory approach of the EPA," Lucas said. "As the new Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, I pledge to hold vigorous oversight of the administration on a number of issues that threaten the livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers."

On the specific issue of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Lucas said that while he agreed with the broad goal, EPA is "moving forward with accelerated and questionable regulations without considering the consequences for farmers and rural communities or without considering the ongoing conservation measures our producers are using to improve water quality."

Tamara Hinton, a spokeswoman for the House Agriculture Committee, said committee hearings on EPA policies can be expected this year but that nothing has been planned yet. She also said it is premature to discuss specific measures needed to address these issues until they are explored more fully in the hearings.

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