Opinions & Sacred Cows : Held in the jaws of overregulation

By Western DairyBusiness Editor Ron Goble

It’s no secret we live in a world wrapped up in regulatory red tape. In fact, agriculture in general, and dairy specifically, can’t get things done in a timely manner anymore. Ask a dairy producer, who just jumped through a myriad of regulatory hoops over the past four or five years in his quest to build a new dairy, how stressful and expensive that venture can be.

Some states are more “welcoming” than others. California state regulatory agencies make it almost impossible to get the job done before a middle-aged dairyman reaches retirement age. Texas, on the other hand, makes the permitting and construction process about as painless as you can find. Not that they don’t have strict regulations to follow, but they have a way of moving the process forward in a productive and positive way – dairy industry friendly.

There is however, more outcry from the agriculture sector over the past two years of the Obama Administration because of proposed rules or final regulations. Agriculture has its guard up since President Obama issued an executive order in mid-January ordering each federal agency to submit a plan outlining how it will “periodically review its existing significant regulations to determine whether any such regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded or repealed so as to make the agency’s regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives.”

Although the new order stresses the rules must be based on “objective science,’ agriculture has its doubts. Going on government’s past performance, agriculture can expect more stringent regulations in the future, not less. I would be quite surprised – but happily so – if there were any moves to reduce, or do away with certain regulations because scientific evidence proves them to be overreaching. Ag groups are optimistically hoping overreaching rules will be reviewed and corrections made. I fear the latest executive order only opens a door of opportunity for more oversight and regulation.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a lot of backpedaling to do to ease up on the overregulatory pressures being applied to the dairy and livestock industries. Steve Foglesong, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., told Feedstuffs recently, “If there were one word to describe the first two years of President Obama’s Administration, it would be ‘regulation.’” He characterized EPA’s recent actions as a “regulation rampage,” and examples of Administration actions would “kill industry as we know it.” He cited the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule as “a perfect example of government overreach into the private marketplace.”

In today’s world, government regulations do more to hinder food production than help it. These bureaucratic hurdles hinder efforts to literally feed the world. If we expect U.S. farmers, ranchers and dairy operators to feed the 9-plus billion people who will populate the world in decades to come, things in the regulatory world must change.

We need to clear away the unnecessary regulations and the red tape they create. Because in the end, a hungry world won’t ask whether their beef was raised in a pasture or feedlot. They will only be concerned about having enough food to eat – and be able to afford it.


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