by Philip Nelson
President, Illinois Farm Bureau
Many folks like to ring in the new year with a list of resolutions to live by in the coming months. But we at the Illinois Farm Bureau like to ring out the old year by passing resolutions at our organization’s annual meeting, held every December.
One of the grass-roots resolutions our members passed this year wasn’t specific to anything in our policies, as is typically the case with resolutions that come before the delegate body. This resolution offered a “Sense of the Delegate Body,” which allows our members to speak with one voice in general terms about a particular issue. We don’t pass one every year, but when we do, you can be sure it regards something about which our members feel strongly.
As 2010 ended, our members felt strongly about how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems to be stepping into our farm fields more than ever before, with a tsunami of proposed regulations that are sometimes illogical and often overly burdensome.
We believe that EPA has greatly overstepped its authority. We’ve done our best to comply with and implement everything this agency has asked of us in the past, and yet, they feel like they still need to come after us.
By our count, there are currently more than two dozen separate EPA regulations and proposals that would impact farmers, either by taking valuable tools out of their hands, or by making production costs soar. We enjoy an abundant supply of safe, affordable food in this country, but if EPA has its way, that food could end up being neither as abundant nor as affordable as it is now.
That’s why our delegates voted to urge Congress to hold oversight hearings on EPA’s regulatory overreach, to pass legislation that would strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and to cut the agency’s budget in order to bring some common sense to environmental regulation.
In fact, not long after our resolution passed, the incoming chair of the House Ag Committee, Frank Lucas, echoed our sentiments, promising hearings that would look at EPA’s “fondness for overreaching regulations that defy Congressional intent.”
We hope Mr. Lucas stays true to his word. We believe the influx of new House members gives us a prime opportunity to strike while the iron is hot, to use the momentum they carry into office in January to begin the very difficult job of turning back the EPA tide.
Let it be said that we’re for clean air and clean water, too. We breathe the air and drink the water on our farms. But farmers are the truest of environmentalists, make no mistake about it—because we wouldn’t have our families out there if we didn’t think it was safe.
Farmers work with the Department of Agriculture extensively on all aspects of their farming operations, including environmental issues. EPA, however, seems to want to take over all things agricultural when it comes to the environment. For that reason, we passed another resolution supporting a requirement for EPA to collaborate with the USDA in the development of conservation and clean air and water regulations impacting agriculture.
Whether EPA decides to work with USDA voluntarily or by law, that agency needs to be reined in, otherwise we’ll be filling out forms and counting dust particles until long after our cows have come home.
Philip Nelson is a fourth-generation grain and livestock farmer from Seneca, IL.
NOTE: This commentary was published in the Jan. 7, 2011 edition of Illinois Agri-News.