Agriculture should brace for destructive EPA regulatory trend

Opinions & Sacred Cows, by Ron Goble

After such a difficult, and in some instances, devastating 2009, dairy producers could use some good news. But, I’m sorry, other than the price of milk climbing back to break-even or a little above, there may be more to cause you sleepless nights than there will be things to celebrate.

Most bad news for dairymen has to do with government regulation in one way or another. Have you heard of “environmental justice?”

All indications are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), plus the air pollution and water quality control boards will be much more aggressive in 2010 and beyond. One of the reasons is the trend toward “environmental justice,” a destructive movement and a slippery slope that government bureaucrats and activists want to drag agriculture down.

At the end of 2009, the EPA signed a final rule that governs emissions of certain compounds from commercial feed and feed ingredient manufacturing facilities. The proposed rule would apply to the majority of feed manufacturers that use chromium or manganese compounds in their operations.

It doesn’t surprise us that the EPA disregarded input from the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and American Feed Industry Association (AFIA). The two organizations had worked together on the EPA rule making issue, and submitted a joint statement in August seeking major revisions to the agency’s initial proposal. The two organizations faulted EPA for basing its regulations on “erroneous and misguided assumptions and estimates of emissions of chromium and manganese compounds.”

Over-regulation of feed and feed ingredient manufacturers will eventually impact dairy producer costs too. While rule changes are restrictive and hurt the industry’s efficiency and economic viability, the real damage to dairy will be government’s commitment to chasing the environmental justice ideology.

Why wouldn’t EPA work with industry to get their regulations in line with science, and take into consideration the simple realities of living in an industrialized society? Because EPA’s new expanded agenda isn’t about protecting the environment as much as it is about “environmental justice.” EPA focus is on getting even for all the perceived “sins” of industry.

Recently, Lisa P. Jackson, EPA administrator, said “we have begun a new era of outreach and protection for communities historically underrepresented in EPA decision-making. We are building strong working relationships with tribes, communities of color, economically distressed cities and towns, young people and others, but this is just a start. We must include environmental justice principles in all of our decisions. This is an area that calls for innovation and bold thinking, and I am challenging all of our employees to bring vision and creativity to our programs.”

Small business owners need to be aware of the motivation behind the regulations. It is sad to see that regulations have become the “hammer” with which bureaucrats will pound home their environmental justice message. We’ve been told that environmental justice will be pursued in regard to every EPA decision. Thus, we can expect more out-of-balance decisions will be made by EPA and other such agencies with a bent toward environmental justice over science and common sense.

Have an opinion or response? E-mail Ron Goble, Associate publisher/editor, Western DairyBusiness at: