U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) today sent a letter to Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urging him to reduce burdensome and ineffective regulations impacting farmers,ranchers and rural America. Consistent with President Obama's January18th executive order, the Senators include a list of regulations and proposals that OIRA should consider a priority for review given the substantial and unjustifiable cost on stakeholders. In the letter, the Senators said they want assurance that the administration will review the actions by the U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)and swiftly implement corrective action.
Textof the letter to Administrator Sunstein is below:
The Honorable Cass Sunstein
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
The Office of Management and Budget
72517th Street, NW
Wewrite as a follow-up to your recent conversation with Senator Chamblissregarding the grave concerns we have about a significant number of regulatoryproposals by the Obama Administration. These proposals will impact theU.S. agriculture industry as well as jobs and wealth creation in ruralAmerica. We are most interested in the executive order released last weekby President Obama and, importantly, the impact of this measure as it isimplemented by leadership at the Department of Agriculture and EnvironmentalProtection Agency.
Asstated in the executive order, "some sectors and industries face a significantnumber of regulatory requirements, some of which may be redundant,inconsistent, or overlapping." Furthermore, the executive order mandatesthat " each agency shall attempt to promote such coordination, simplificationand harmonization" across agencies. Agriculture is such an industry underthe jurisdiction of multiple agencies where coordination is necessary to ensurethe executive order's goal of "economic growth, innovation, competitiveness,and job creation."
Weare fully supportive of any effort to reduce burdensome and ineffectiveregulation.
Therefore,we wish to draw your attention to the following measures which we believe willhave a substantial and unjustifiable cost on production agriculture and rural communitiesacross our nation. In addition to expressing our continued concern aboutthese provisions, we hereby request a review and subsequent analysis by youroffice as to whether each of these proposals is consistent with the essence andrequirements of the January 18th executive order. Finally, once suchanalysis is complete, we ask that your staff be made available to present yourfindings to our staff and the staff of other Senators concerned about thesematters.
Thankyou for your prompt attention to this request.
U.S.Senator Saxby Chambliss
U.S.Senator Pat Roberts
REGULATORYACTIVITY OF CONCERN FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL AMERICA
a.NPDES permits-- This is scheduled to go into effect on April 9, 2011. Itwill require 5.6 million applications of pesticides by 365,000 applicators tohave NPDES permits to apply pesticides. It will cost $50 million andrequire one million hours per year to implement. http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/home.cfm?program_id=410
b.Atrazine -- In the fall of 2009, in response to a New York Times article, EPAannounced an unscheduled re-review of atrazine. Atrazine was favorablyreviewed by EPA in 2006 and is scheduled to begin registration review in2013. EPA's decision on atrazine could establish a precedent for otherpesticides. http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/reregistration/atrazine/
c.Endangered Species Act -- Courts are imposing arbitrary limits on pesticide use,mostly by requiring large buffers along streams, in order to protect endangeredspecies. The uncertainty that these actions have created is then greatlyexacerbated by the Administration's failure to establish a process throughwhich the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Servicecan consult with EPA on endangered species issues as they are required to do bystatute. Such failure to coordinate is creating serious jeopardy foragriculture as environmental groups recently filed suit against EPA allegingthat its pesticide regulatory process does not take into account the effects ofpesticides on endangered species.
d.Risk Assessment Process/Precautionary Principle -- In December 2009, EPAproposed to revise its risk assessment methods related to agricultural workers,their children and pesticides with no food uses. This is a significantchange to the agency's risk assessment methodology and is not required byFIFRA. It would add an additional ten-fold safety factor for occupationalrisk. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/worker-rsk-assmnt.html
a.Clean Water Act Strategy -- In 2009, EPA began to develop a series of aggressiveClean Water Act initiatives. Agriculture is the chief focus of theeffort. The problem is not that EPA is developing new strategies andplans for improving water quality, but it is how the agency is going aboutdoing it. Agriculture has not been impressed with the promises ofopenness and transparency. Agriculture groups are routinely not includedin meetings and strategy sessions and the groups' concerns about hasty decisionmaking without thorough analysis are frequently dismissed. For example,only a few from the agriculture community were invited to attend EPA's strategyworkshop held in August 2010.
b.Numeric Nutrient Criteria -- Under a settlement agreement with an activistgroup, EPA has taken over the development of numeric nutrient criteria (NNC)for Florida's waters. NNC are a subset of EPA's technical water qualitystandards program. Florida estimates the total capital cost of EPA'scriteria will range from $47 to $98 billion over 30 years. At this time,44 states have criteria under development. http://yosemite.epa.gov/opei/RuleGate.nsf/6c93b95a7f1614c1852576b70060eb51/355215442d406485852576da0076d5cb!OpenDocument
c.Water Quality Standards Rulemaking -- On July 30, 2010, EPA announced it willpropose amendments to the Water Quality Standards program. EPA plans tostrengthen anti-degradation standards, adopt a presumption that all U.S. watersshould be fishable and swimmable, and require state decisions to be approved byEPA. In effect, this proposal would federalize decisions historicallymade by the states under the Clean Water Act. http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/lawsguidance/wqs_index.cfm
d.Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) -- EPA is seeking expandedauthority to implement plans to restore the Bay. Part of this effort issetting a stringent total maximum daily load (TMDL). TMDLs areallocations by sector of allowed discharges to certain water bodies. Thiswill subject producers in the Bay states to more regulation than producers inother states. The Bay TMDL is expected to be used as a model for otherwater bodies, such as the Mississippi River in the Midwest and the Puget Soundin the Pacific Northwest. http://www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl/
e. CAFOs -- A new regulation is planned for summer 2011. It is expected torequire small and medium Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) toobtain permits and the use of more aggressive nutrient management plans. It also will include a presumption that all CAFOs discharge, thus subjectingthem to permitting requirements. http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/cafo_implementation_guidance.pdf
a. PM 10/Dust -- EPA is preparing to reconsider its large particulate matter (PM10) standard. EPA's Clean Air Advisory Committee has recommended loweringthe standard. This is problematic because the current standard is alreadydifficult for many rural counties, especially in the West, to meet. http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/pm/s_pm_index.html
b. Greenhouse Gas Regulations -- EPA is swiftly moving ahead with a suite ofregulations concerning greenhouse gas emissions. In the short term, theywill affect agriculture by creating additional uncertainty and slowing therecovery of the economy. In the long term, they will raise productioncosts for producers and agricultural businesses. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/initiatives/index.html
a. Dioxin Risk Assessment -- EPA is considering a cancer risk factor that willcause nearly all agricultural products to exceed the agency's level ofconcern. Since 2000, the incidence of dioxin contamination has dropped 90percent. http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/CFM/nceaQFind.cfm?keyword=Dioxin
b. Arsenic Risk Assessment -- EPA is considering a cancer risk factor that willcause virtually all soils to exceed the agency's target risk range. Thismeans rice, wheat, corn meal, peanuts, apples, lettuce, carrots, onions, sugar,and tap water would be considered unsafe. http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=219111
c. Urea Risk Assessment -- Urea is widely used in fertilizers as a source ofnitrogen. It also is an important raw material for the chemicalindustry. In September, EPA announced a 60-day public comment period anda public listening session on November 16 for the external review of the drafthuman health assessment on urea. http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/iris_drafts/recordisplay.cfm?deid=214771
d. Fly Ash Regulation -- EPA's preferred approach for regulation of fly ash is todeclare it hazardous waste. This would end all beneficial uses of flyash, including agricultural uses. Currently, it is used as a soilamendment and research shows it can be used at field borders to better capturephosphorus runoff. http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/4eca022f6f5c501185257719005dfb1b!OpenDocument
(B) DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
(1) Biotechnology- Recently, USDA convened a forum of stakeholdersto discuss alfalfa co-existence and conflicts between supporters and critics ofagriculture biotechnology. In proposing a "partial deregulation" with isolationdistances and geographic restrictions based entirely on perceived economicconsequences resulting from the commercialization of genetically engineeredalfalfa, the Department has introduced political considerations that exceedtheir statutory authority to regulate the introduction and movement of plantpests. The integration of the co-existence discussion within theregulatory process signals the Department's willingness to elevate theprecautionary principle as a fundamental tenet of decision making rather thanestablished procedures as set forth by years of science based riskassessment. The Department plans to issue a record of decision on GEalfalfa the week of January 24th. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/alfalfa_documents.shtml
(2) Trade- USDA intends to propose modifications to the ForeignMarket Development and Market Access Programs that have the potential to reducetheir effectiveness in increasing U.S. exports. At present, theseprograms are operating optimally and fulfilling all of the goals of thePresident's National Export Initiative by including small and medium-sizedenterprises as required by law.
(3) Livestock marketing- In June of last year, the GrainInspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) published a proposedrule that would make historic changes in the rules governing production andmarketing of livestock. The draft rule has come under significantcriticism from industry as well as Congress as to substance and a lack ofeconomic analysis conducted before the proposal was published. http://archive.gipsa.usda.gov/rulemaking/fr10/06-22-10.pdf
(4) Crop insurance- In early January, the Risk Management Agency(RMA) unveiled a proposed rule that would reward farmers participating in thefederal crop insurance program for good performance. As proposed by RMA,the "Good Performance Refund" Program does not appear to meet the spirit of thenew executive order. First, instead of utilizing an electronic deliverymechanism that is already in place, the proposal would require the Treasury orUSDA to issue hard copy checks to eligible producers. Secondly, the proposalfails to comply with the statutory requirement that producer performance bebased on region. By failing to take geographical differences underconsideration, RMA's proposal disproportionately benefits producers in regionswith favorable weather conditions. Finally, the agency has allowed only15 days for public comment. http://www.rma.usda.gov/regs/2011/gprpr.pdf