U.S. Senator Pat Roberts today joined Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and other key Western state Senators in sending a letter to the President to consider the negative consequences of policies that especially penalize rural America.
The letter, sent today, was signed by members of the Senate Western Caucus. The following is the text of the letter:
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We urge you to utilize the National Summit of Rural America to be held June 3, 2010 as a turning point for this Administration. For too long, the agenda has been dominated by policies that burden rural communities with higher energy costs, greater federal intrusion, and decreased access to the lands we cherish. This summit offers an opportunity to replace restrictive Washington mandates with policies that create jobs and promote economic growth.
The Administration has repeatedly placed bureaucratic hurdles in rural communities. In January 2010, the Department of the Interior announced onshore oil and gas leasing reforms that will increase bureaucracy, stifle job creation, and hurt states' budgets. The Department is also considering locking up at least 13 million acres of land in 11 western states. Moving forward with plans to deny access to public lands for economic and recreational use will have severe consequences for rural America's way of life and its economic future.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to reach even further into the lives of rural Americans. Its Endangerment Finding will allow EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from schools, hospitals, farms, and many other small businesses. EPA's command-and-control regulatory approach will impose massive new energy costs on all aspects of the rural way of life. The EPA also advocates complete federal regulation of all waters in every state, from prairie potholes to puddles and playas. This allows the federal government to inject itself into rural life like never before. Furthermore, EPA's new regulation of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers will have wide spread negative effects on food production and rural income. EPA's regulations will hurt job growth and stifle economic recovery in rural areas.
The Administration's policies for production agriculture increase risk on family farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed cuts to critical programs that benefit farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The Department increasingly directs funds and policy away from conventional agricultural production that feeds the vast majority of Americans and the growing global population. Instead, the Administration focuses on urban niche markets and hobby farmers. Finally, the Administration's refusal to promote existing trade agreements or reform the death tax harms rural America. Our farmers and ranchers supply the safest, most abundant, most affordable and high quality food system in the world. The Administration should abandon policies that erode agriculture production and threaten rural communities.
As Senators from states with strong rural communities, we encourage you to take a hard look at the effect of Administration policies. We also request that you meet with us to discuss the many issues facing rural America. Folks in our rural communities know that federal regulations will not create jobs or get the economy back on track. Instead, Washington should get out of the way so that rural Americans can grow their businesses, create new jobs, and provide for their families and communities.
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)
Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT)
Senator John Ensign (R-NV)
Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
Senator Jim Risch (R-ID)
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Senator John Thune (R-SD)
Last week, Senator Roberts, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Senator McCain sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack concerned that in the interest of promoting local food systems through the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program, the Department of Agriculture appears to be prioritizing locavore projects in urban areas, apparently at the expense of production agriculture and rural communities with documented rural development needs.
In the letter, dated April 27, 2010, the Senators said:
"While the concept of educating consumers about production agriculture is a worthwhile endeavor, we have serious misgivings about the direction of the Know Your Farmers program.
"Unfortunately, this spending doesn't appear geared toward conventional farmers who produce the vast majority of our nation's food supply, but is instead aimed at small, hobbyist and organic producers whose customers generally consist of affluent patrons at urban farmers markets.
"American families and rural farmers are hurting in today's economy, and it's unclear to us how propping up the urban locavore markets addresses their needs. Given our nation's crippling budgetary crisis, we also believe the federal government cannot afford to spend precious Rural Development funds on feel-good measures which are completely detached from the realities of production agriculture."
Senator Roberts is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and is an outspoken advocate for rural America.