Opinions & sacred cows: Good news, congress is awake!
It seems a good number of legislators in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives recognize excessive agency overreach and are taking action to curb it.
Last month, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) introduced legislation that would ban the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from conducting aerial surveillance of our farms and dairies for a one-year moratorium.
In conjunction with the Senate action, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved The Farmer’s Privacy Act of 2012 – HR 5961, which would make it illegal for EPA to conduct aerial surveillance of farms in order to enforce the Clean Water Act.
The author of that measure, Rep. Shelly Moore-Capito (R-W.Va.) said the EPA had to prove “reasonable suspicion” in order to use such surveillance. While the House bill still offers the stealth aerial program some wiggle room, it would at least put the brakes on what is becoming an increasingly intrusive regulatory agency.
Legislative action seemed necessary because the EPA was moving ahead with its surveillance operations while failing to respond to requests for a full explanation of the program. Johanns requested a “clear, complete account of the size and scope” of EPA’s ops from agency administrator Lisa Jackson. She refused to respond and handed the issue off to a regional administrator who has been “unable or unwilling to offer insight into the full national scope of the program,” according to a statement from Johanns’ office.
In a press release on Johanns’ website, he put the situation in perspective. “I want to be very clear, this legislation does not affect EPA’s ability to use traditional on-site inspections, but given EPA’s track record of ignorance about agriculture, if not downright contempt for it, farmers and ranchers do not trust this agency. Until EPA takes a more common sense, transparent, open approach, we need to step on the brakes.
“This bill does that,” the statement read. “It places a one-year moratorium on EPA from using aerial surveillance. This will give the agency time to come clean about its activities nationwide and make the case that these flights are an appropriate use of agency authority and taxpayer money.” Or NOT!
More good news...
If it’s not one agency out of control it’s another. This time it’s the Department of Labor. Once again, House and Senate lawmakers rose to the occasion and put forth the Preserving America’s Family Farms Act, a bill to prohibit the DOL from moving forward on an earlier proposed rule that would limit the ability of children to work on family farms unless it was for their parents.
Even yours truly remembers as a 12-year-old learning what hard work was on the farms of both my grandparents in Central California. Grandpa F.I. Goble farmed a lot of cotton and had a 5,000-hen, egg-laying operation. During the summer, I’d drive a cart through the poultry houses while collecting thousands of eggs, which were then washed, inspected and stacked. At the farm of my other grandfather, A.L. Neel, I learned to pick grapes, roll paper trays and drive a tractor during raisin boxing time at his vineyard.
Needless to say, if such DOL restrictions were in force in my day, I would not have been allowed to learn what farm life was really all about. Spending a few weeks every summer on the farms was always an adventure. I wouldn’t have missed those experiences for anything. Besides, I learned early in life that I’d prefer earning my living writing about agriculture, not actually having to do agriculture!
I know that some special interests would just as soon see orchards, vineyards and dairies turned into solar patches, or worse. However, all forms of agriculture are worth preserving, especially if we want to feed the world. God bless the American farmer!
Have an opinion? E-mail Ron Goble: email@example.com.