In just the last three years, the Environmental Protection Agency has set in motion a significant number of new regulations that will significantly change the face of agriculture.

The coming changes threaten the continued operation of family farms and ranches, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Testifying Nov. 17 on behalf of AFBF before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said EPA proposals to exert greater regulatory control over agriculture will drive up the cost of producing food, fiber and fuel.

“EPA proposals are overwhelming to farmers and ranchers and are creating a cascade of costly requirements that are likely to drive individual farmers to the tipping point,” Shaffer said. “The overwhelming number of proposed regulations on the nation’s food system is unprecedented and promises profound effects on both the structure and competitiveness of all of agriculture.”

“In contrast to EPA’s heavy-handed approach of issuing crushing regulatory burdens, agriculture and the Agriculture Department have worked together over the last few decades to make enormous strides in agriculture’s environmental performance by adopting a range of conservation practices and environmental measures,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer owns and operates a wheat, corn and green bean farm in Columbia County, Pa., located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Chesapeake Bay concerns

The Chesapeake Bay is one area of concern to Farm Bureau, due to the burdensome and unlawful nutrient management plan EPA is taking steps to implement. Other areas of concern include EPA’s proposals to expand the scope of waters subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act, which require costly and duplicative permits for normal pesticide applications, proposed standards for regulation of dust, and unjustified attempts to collect data from livestock farms.

In his testimony, Shaffer said that “EPA is literally piling regulation on top of regulation, and guidance on top of guidance, to the point of erecting barriers to economic growth,” said Shaffer.

Philip Nelson, president of Illinois Farm Bureau, also testified at the hearing, on behalf of farmers and ranchers in his state. Nelson raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa, cattle and hogs. He testified to the subcommittee regarding a new regulation, the Pesticide General Permit, that went into effect Nov. 1.

“This new permit is a needless duplication of existing law. We do not need this entirely new permit program,” Nelson said, noting that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act has covered pesticide labeling and application very effectively since 1947.

Further, the pesticide permit “doesn’t improve food safety, doesn’t add any additional environmental protection or benefit for society, and does nothing to improve my bottom line,” Nelson said.

Nelson also commented briefly on the potential impacts of proposed dust regulations on agriculture, urging support for legislation such as H.R. 1633, the Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The act would provide the certainty that farmers, ranchers and residents of rural areas need to ensure that normal activities that are essential parts of their farming operations are not unduly regulated by a standard for which there is no proven benefit to human health.