Q. Some say that the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, sometimes overreaches the boundaries of its authority at the expense of agriculture. Do you agree with this statement?
A. There is a lot of evidence of this type of behavior from the EPA. Consider this example; the EPA currently enforces regulations known as "Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure," or SPCC, to prevent oil from discharging into U.S. waterways. Believe it or not, with the way the EPA wrote the regulations milk is treated the same as petroleum oil, because it contains milk fat. In January 2009, the EPA indicated in a proposed rule that it would exempt milk storage from the SPCC regulations, but it has yet to make the rule final.
The fact that the EPA has delayed a decision on whether to treat milk differently than oil is ridiculous. Does anybody but the EPA believe that milk can cause the type of environmental damage that is common with an oil spill? This EPA blunder has consequences. Adding unnecessary, burdensome regulations will put many dairy farmers in an extremely precarious position and could even put some out of business. And, if farmers are forced to make unnecessary modifications to their operations, it could easily increase prices for consumers at the grocery store.
The EPA also recently released a second draft policy assessment on what it calls "particulate matter," better known as dust. It concluded that the EPA administrator could retain or increase the current standards on dust.
Considering the EPA's track record on agriculture issues, I'm worried that this puts us one step closer to more regulations on farmers. It defies common sense to mandate that farmers keep all dust between their fence rows when combining or that the county government keep all the gravel dust on the road. Dust movement, such as that produced when livestock kick their feet or a car is driven down a gravel road, is a naturally occurring event. If the EPA administrator makes the dust regulations more stringent, farmers and livestock producers would likely be unable to attain the standard levels, and the rural economy would pay the price.
Q. What are you doing to stop this overreach?
A. I am a cosponsor of legislation that would expedite the decision by the EPA to exempt milk containers from the regulations initially intended for oil spills. This legislation would require the EPA to finalize the proposed rule to exempt milk containers within 30 days, and would delay EPA fines and penalties against milk containers until the EPA makes the proposed exemption final.
I am also leading the charge to stop the EPA from placing further economic pressure on rural America by imposing even more stringent regulations on dust. The bipartisan group of senators backing my effort is calling on the EPA administrator to use common sense on future dust regulations, and reminding her of the negative impact such regulations could have on rural America.