The man from the EPA bore no resemblance to the villainous Simon Legree. He had neither horns nor a forked tail. He seemed an affable sort—young, intelligent, humorous at times and comfortable before an audience of folk who typically express disdain for his employer.

Yet his fellow panelist, Terry Detrick, president of the American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance Agency, admitted that, “the EPA is our most feared agency. We are scared of what might come down the pike. We hate regulations.”

Detrick and Josh Svalty, who works in the EPA’s Region 7 (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri), squared off in something of a “point/counterpoint” discussion at the recent Rural Economic Outlook Conference on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater.

The exchanges were civil and the discussion wide-ranging.

Detrick did admit that understanding the EPA’s mission offers insight into the decisions they make. “I didn’t realize until recently that at the beginning of the EPA development they had one thing in mind: if it deals with health matters, it falls under EPA. That sheds light on how the EPA has to approach issues.”

He said economics plays no role in EPA decisions.

Detrick also posed some questions to Svalty, including how recent Supreme Court decisions regarding Definition of Waters of the United States might affect farmers and ranchers. He asked how dust (particulate matter) regulations might affect agriculture. He also noted that “in the mind of many, EPA has a reputation for abuse. We are also concerned that EPA makes rules that are not legislated and that a ‘sue and settle’” situation often determines regulations.

“And we are concerned that with the recent election more ‘green thinking’ will be detrimental to agricultural production.”

Svalty gave EPA’s side.

“Dust is not as big an issue as last year,” he said, “but producers have been concerned. We want to help them realize that the EPA can’t differentiate agricultural dust from other dust.”

He said “ambient air quality,” is the issue. “We want to know what the air is like 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”