Farmers need to commit their time, energy, money and best thinking if they want to stop the proliferation of federal regulations that threaten their businesses, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official told the American Farm Bureau Federation 93rd Annual Meeting last month in Hawaii.
“This isn’t academic, folks,” says Reed Rubinstein, senior counsel for the Chamber of Commerce. “When the federal government exercises its authority, it can send you to jail. We are all one regulation away from being out of business.”
Most of the “hyper regulation” currently affecting farmers stems from expansion of environmental law, he says, but new health care regulations and financial reform will add to their regulatory burden in the next five to 10 years.
What Is Sustainability?
Increasingly, the Environmental Protection Agency is emphasizing ecological sustainability of agriculture in its regulatory programs, based on what it says are public concerns, Rubinstein says. “Translation: ‘You need somebody to tell you how to run your business because you’re not doing it in the right way,’” he says. “But who’s going to decide what ‘sustainable’ means?”
EPA also is having internal discussions about moving away from place-based regulations supported by science to a holistic approach, which includes concern for social issues in writing regulations, he says.
Farmers need to get engaged in these issues, Rubinstein says, and comment on proposed regulations at every level of government.
Hyper regulation is also a state and local issue, he emphasized. Farmers need to be willing to serve on federal and local advisory panels that draft and review regulations. .
Proactive Approach Needed
In addition to responding, farmers and ranchers need to be proactive in addressing issues, he says.
Rubinstein also encouraged farmers and ranchers to support legislation that would regulate how EPA settles lawsuits filed against it. Often environmental groups sue the agency to advance their agenda, and EPA settles the lawsuits in a manner that establishes the regulatory control the groups wanted.
Farmers can find coalition partners in other groups that feel as strongly as they do about private property rights, he suggests.
American Farm Bureau provided information for this article.