Why We Fight for Regulatory Reform
by Scott Yager
With talk of tax reform and health care dominating the halls of Congress, it was not surprising that a hearing held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law passed without much fanfare. Held on September 28th, the hearing featured testimony from Jason Carter, Executive Director of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association (VCA), who discussed his perspective on a key regulatory issue facing VCA members. Regulatory reform is a gritty, technical process that often fails to make headlines. Nonetheless, it is some of the most critical work that NCBA and our allies engage in.
Mr. Carter’s testimony focused on how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is creating uncertainty for beef producers in Virginia. The EPA’s aim is admirable: Improve water quality throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed by implementing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Program. TMDLs typically set limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment, then rely on state governments to create implementation plans that meet these targets. But in the case of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL – a mammoth program covering 64,000 square mile region spread across six states – EPA’s implementation has resulted in wasted taxpayer dollars with no clear path to the finish line.
It may sound harmless, but when the EPA employs a bureaucratic, top-down approach, it introduces needless regulatory uncertainty and enables government waste. The State of Virginia is currently satisfying its standards for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, but the federal government has yet to provide any details about the next phase of the program. As a result, Virginia’s agricultural producers do not know what changes to expect and what resources they will need to successfully implement them. In one egregious example cited by Mr. Carter, the state government forked over $100,000 for a fence designed to keep less than twelve cows out of a stream, in order to comply with EPA implementation plans.
The negative consequences of EPA overreach will come as no surprise to American cattlemen and women. Ranchers like Andy Johnson, who was subject to $16 million in fines for building a stock pond on his property, have been victims of the EPA’s sweeping regulatory actions. That’s why NCBA consistently opposes regulations that extend EPA jurisdiction without merit.
The 2015 Waters of United States (WOTUS) rule is a case in point. Despite the best of intentions, the rule would have given regulators broad authority over vast “waters of the United States” allowing the federal government to enforce burdensome regulations on minor features such as creek-beds or stock ponds found across our nation’s landscape. Due to NCBA’s diligent work, the 2015 WOTUS rule is on its death bed, but plenty of other EPA regulations pose unnecessary threats to U.S. beef producers.
It may not get much glory, but NCBA and our allies will continue to fight for regulatory reform on behalf of cattlemen and women across the country. We commend Chairman Goodlatte for providing Mr. Carter with a forum to make the voice of beef producers heard on these critical issues.
Scott Yager is Environmental Counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which has represented America’s cattle producers since 1898, preserving the heritage and strength of the industry through education and public policy.