Op-Ed: We Must Trust Farmers and RanchersMon, 28 Sep 2015 12:04:03 CDT
Op-Ed Written By: U.S. Senator James Lankford
It's always surprising to me how often bureaucrats in Washington, DC, who spend most of their life on concrete, want to control everyday Americans thousands of miles away who spend most of their life on dirt. They think they know better than hard-working Americans, and nowhere is this philosophy more evident than in the agricultural industry.
Over the last few years, federal government overreach has reached new highs. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Waters of the U.S. rule is a perfect example. With this proposal, puddles and potholes could be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act, whether they be on private or public land. This new EPA action is not a result of a new law or act of Congress, this is simply the President "reinterpreting" a decades old law in a way that no president ever has before.
We all want clean drinking water, but this unprecedented attempt to gain even more federal power will burden farmers, ranchers, businesses, private property owners, and state and local governments. Virtually every river, stream, and creek in the nation could be under the regulation of the Clean Water Act if the EPA gets away with this power grab. As we all know well in Oklahoma, if you control the water, you control the economy. In the past two months, we have cut the funding from EPA to implement the Waters of the U.S. proposal and a wide variety of effective private lawsuits have been filed against the out-of-control EPA. I have also personally talked with the Administrator of the EPA about the Waters of the U.S. rule and scheduled multiple hearings to determine where the EPA perceives they have the authority to change this rule.
There are a multitude of groups that advise and oversee farming in America, but the most basic truth is farmers and ranchers know how to care for their land, especially if it is family-owned land. American farmers and ranchers are the most safe and productive leaders in the world on their crop selection, their land and their care for the environment. Washington, DC should trust farmers and localities to best utilize technologies and strategies on their land that work for them.
One of the priorities during my time in Congress has been to reduce burdensome regulatory barriers and outside influence on the private sector, especially on the agricultural industry. For example, when I served in the House of Representatives, I introduced the Farmers Freedom Act, a bill that exempts farm vehicles from certain operating requirements which govern the operation of vehicles, like commercial driver's license, drug testing, medical certificates, and hours of service. I also co-sponsored the Preserving America's Family Farms Act, a bill that would have prohibited the Secretary of Labor from reissuing or issuing regulations that limit family members who are involved in farming.
My current Senate Subcommittee has jurisdiction over federal regulations, and we've held five Congressional hearings and roundtables to discuss reforms of the federal regulatory process. In March, I launched a national #CutRedTape Initiative, a new online tool for American families and businesses to share their stories about how federal regulations impact them on a daily basis. So far, this initiative has received more than 160 submissions on regulations from a variety of federal agencies, including the EPA, USDA, Department of Education, and many others.
Farmers and ranchers, or those regularly in the field, should be trusted to farm and manage their own property, but they also should be included in the process of developing any regulations or laws that govern their land. This summer, I introduced the Early Participation in Regulations Act of 2015, a bill that would require the federal government to allow Americans to participate in the regulatory process earlier and more often.
The more I analyze and work on regulatory reform, the more I find the need for our federal government to get out of the way. Farmers and Ranchers should have the freedom to make decisions about their land, their crop, their livestock and their family. This is a basic right and it is a basic responsibility of government to protect it.
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