The National Cotton Council always has been at the vanguard in the regulatory arena. That includes work on a number of current concerns that threaten the industry’s overall competitiveness.
What about the greenhouse gas issue?
Currently, the NCC is working to secure Congressional support for the passage of the Murkowski resolution of disapproval to repeal EPA’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gases. The NCC coordinated a letter supporting the resolution and received an overwhelming response – 138 different agricultural organizations signed on. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) became original co-sponsors and subsequently were joined by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and David Vitter (R-La.). Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) was to introduce an identical resolution in the House. The NCC will continue working in support of both the Senate and House resolutions so that EPA cannot move forward with this burdensome, expensive and unnecessary regulatory action.
A bipartisan bill also was introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Representatives Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and JoAnne Emerson (R-Mo.), which would block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
What other major regulatory issues are of concern to the industry?
A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling stated that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is required under the Clean Water Act for any pesticide application on, over or near “waters of the United States.” The NCC was an original plaintiff in a suit against EPA on this issue and joined with other agricultural groups in filing a petition of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking reversal of the Sixth Circuit decision in NCC vs. EPA. The NCC also is actively engaged with EPA to develop a general permit system, despite our concerns with the Justice Department’s response that says there is no need for a Supreme Court review. The Justice Department’s rationale is there is adequate time to mitigate the impact of the Sixth Circuit’s incorrect decision by issuing “general permits” for pesticide use.
The NCC also is active in a coalition to ensure that final food safety legislation does not include many of the objectionable provisions of the House-passed food safety bill. That measure contained several negotiated on-farm exemptions but still includes gins and cottonseed facilities under its provisions. The NCC joined several other organizations and the grain trade on a letter outlining concerns with the House bill’s provisions and noting recommended improvements for the Senate bill prior to markup.
Another concern is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed regulation of combustible dust in the workplace. The NCC and seven other cotton industry organizations submitted detailed comments that urged the agency to focus its efforts on industries that have experienced problems with combustible dust. OSHA should not attempt to regulate operations such as gins, warehouses, cottonseed storage and processing facilities, and textile mills that can provide science supportive of why such incidences cannot occur. Answers also were provided to 69 OSHA-posed questions.
Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.