U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, wrote this op-ed to warn us of the many ways in which President Barack Obama seeks to implement his radical agenda through regulation, this time through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The remedy in this case is in the form of legislation, H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The bill was voted on today in the House of Representatives and passed 268 to 150.
While Pompeo focuses primarily on the direct impact of this regulation on farmers and ranchers, anything that makes these activities more difficult and expensive will drive up food costs for everyone, and many complain that these costs have been rising rapidly. Part of that rise, we might note, is due to regulations that require the use of ethanol in fuel, which diverts corn production away from food.
A version of this appeared in the Washington Examiner.
EPA must stop playing in the dust
By U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would like to regulate farm dust all across the nation. I know it sounds ridiculous, but given the Obama Administration’s demonstrated hostility toward rural America, it should not come as a huge surprise. Although EPA has verbally reversed course in recent weeks and said it has “no intention” of regulating farm dust, my 11 months in Washington have taught me quickly that we must pay attention to what politicians do and not what they say. EPA’s actions continue to show that radical environmentalists desire to regulate dust. To stop the EPA in its tracks, I have worked to advance H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, through the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. I look forward to final passage on the House Floor later this week.
In Kansas and across the country, businesses are struggling to stay afloat. At best, EPA is oblivious to this fact. At worst, it deliberately presses forward in spite of the damaging consequences of new regulations. Rather than helping farmers, ranchers, business owners and other entrepreneurs, EPA continually bombards these job creators with undue and costly new regulations. The agriculture sector is now holding its collective breath as EPA considers new air quality standards, which it revises every five years. Under the Clean Air Act, the Agency asserts the authority to regulate farm dust as “coarse particulate matter.” This dust is known very well to rural Kansans. It is merely the dust created from driving down unpaved roads, moving livestock, and working the fields.
As it is, the current standard already imposes costs and restrictions on farmers, ranchers, agribusiness entities, and small businesses, particularly in arid parts of the West where dust is easily kicked up. Earlier this year, EPA staff suggested tightening standards to levels that would push most of the West — including Kansas — out of compliance.
In a recent House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing, we heard from individuals who live in these areas, including Arizona farmer Kevin Rogers, who is already threatened by strict dust regulations. Because parts of Arizona already struggle to meet the current dust standards, he and other farmers may be required to halt tillage, drive at a snail’s pace on unpaved roads, stop work entirely on windy days, or take other expensive measures to reduce dust. If the dust standards are actually tightened to the levels suggested by EPA staff, other parts of the country would have to implement similar policies that will destroy the efficiency and productivity our farmers and ranchers are known for.
Opponents of our efforts call the desire to regulate farm dust a ‘myth’ and liken these concerns to worrying about regulation of fairy dust. While these theatrics garnered some snickers, I was not amused — and neither were the 500 plus Kansas Farm Bureau members I met with just before Thanksgiving who agree that this is a real problem. We need the bipartisan Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and over 180 other organizations also agree that this valid concern with what EPA might do is more than fairy dust, and they know that this bill is vitally important to the survival of their industry.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has announced that the agency has “no intention” of further regulating dust. But that announcement sounds more like political rhetoric designed to appease opponents as the 2012 election cycle nears, rather than a genuine promise rural Americans can count on. Given what I know, I would be letting farmers and ranchers down if I simply trusted the Obama Administration on their stated farm dust intentions. Besides, there is also a threat that an environmental group could sue and persuade a pliant EPA to regulate farm dust as a settlement condition. We need smart and clear laws set by Congress — not unelected bureaucrats. The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act is one. We must ensure that the federal government creates a positive atmosphere for businesses to prosper — including farming and livestock operations. It’s time to forget about regulating farm dust and give rural America some breathing room from the crushing regulations of which this Administration is so fond.