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When guidelines become regulations: tackling the EPA’s sleight-of-hand


Regulatory issues are likely to continue to be an area of skirmishing as discussions for the 2012 farm bill go forward, members of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation were told at their annual meeting at Jackson.

“In the environmental area, we’ve got issues with air, water, soil, greenhouse gasses, endangered species, nutrient and chemical runoff — more regulations and more regulations, particularly from this administration,” said Dale W. Moore, deputy executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington.

The Environmental Protection Agency, he says, “is very good at contending, ‘We’re just issuing guidelines — there’s no regulatory process involved.’ But the states say, ‘The EPA tells us that we won’t get the federal share of whatever program we’re administering unless we follow these guidelines.’ So, while in some instances it may not technically be a regulation, it has the same effect as putting a regulation in place.”

Moore, who has spent almost three decades in the Washington policy arena, says much of what the EPA does involves “their trying to create their own brand of science to make their point or reach their conclusion.”

The effects are far-reaching, he says. Even in the area of trade, “non-tariff barriers are the current weapon of choice for countries that want to keep our commodities and products out of their markets.”

For example, while the rest of the world is using a standard of 1,000 parts per trillion as a safe level for the chemical dioxin, he says the EPA wants to lower that to 2.7 parts per trillion for soil, and .9 parts per trillion for food.

“This opens the door for countries to tell us, ‘Your EPA says these are the levels you’ve declared as unsafe, and we’re not going to take your meat or poultry or we’re not going to take your crops. Why should we take something you won’t let your own people eat?’

“Science has got to be the foundation in this,” Moore says, “and we’ve got to keep repeating that message.”

Other issues center on animal health and welfare and biotechnology.

“There are those who want to take away the ability of livestock producers to use antibiotics and other animal health drugs,” he says. “They constitute two distinct groups: One you can sit down and talk with about animal welfare, and they accept that these drugs are critical for animal producers to maintain the welfare of their animals as well as their bottom line. But in the other group, some of the animal rights organizations have as their overriding goal to put livestock producers out of business.”

In biotechnology, Moore says, “The plant side has pretty much accepted this technology — it’s even being embraced now by some who initially opposed it. But, on the animal side things are a little bit scary; they’re starting to diverge more and more. How we address this is going to be a challenge.”

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