EPA bends to pressure from Crawford

WASHINGTON – After Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR) introduced H.R. 3158, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act, which would modify the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule that places an unnecessary burden on farmers and ranchers, the Environmental Protection Agency has now delayed implementation of the rule until May 2013. The EPA said, “because of their unique nature farms have been disproportionately affected” and will not be forced to comply with the spill containment rule next month as originally planned.

“Over the last months I have built a bi-partisan coalition in the House to stop the EPA from implementing their spill containment rules on farmers and ranchers. While it is encouraging that the agency has delayed implementation of the rule, we will not rest until the EPA stops burdening our communities” said Crawford. “This should not be a game of kick-the-can. The FUELS Act proposal is the only guarantee small farmers and ranchers have to make the EPA’s rule more workable. Our farmers and ranchers should be focused on producing our Nation’s food supply, and should not have to worry about complying with onerous regulations from Washington.”

The EPA mandated Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule will require that oil storage facilities with a capacity of over 1,320 gallons make costly structural improvements to reduce the possibility of oil spills. The plan requires farmers to construct a containment facility, like a dike or a basin, which must retain 110 percent of the fuel in the container. These mandated infrastructure improvements, along with the necessary inspection and certification by a specially licensed Professional Engineer will cost farmers tens of thousands of dollars.

Crawford wrote a letter to the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in July urging her to reconsider the oil storage plan for small farms. A bi-partisan group of 100 Members of Congress from across the country signed also the letter. The letter pointed to the fact that in 2011 farmer and ranchers have faced increased challenges due to numerous natural disasters. The EPA listed natural disasters as part of the reason they are delaying implementation of the spill containment rule.

Local rice producer Ray Vester, who serves as Chairman of the USA Rice Federation’s Environmental Regulatory Subcommittee also cited natural disasters as a chief concern about the EPA’s quick implementation of the spill containment rule saying, “This year has been a devastating year in agriculture, with drought and with floods; it’s made it impossible for agricultural people, farmers, to be able to implement any major construction or change in their operation.”

The FUELS Act would modify the rules by raising the exemption levels to better reflect a producer’s spill risk and financial resources. The exemption level for a single container would be adjusted upward to 10,000 gallons while the aggregate level on a production facility would move to 42,000 gallons. The proposal would also place a greater degree of responsibility on the farmer or rancher to self-certify compliance if it exceeds the exemption level. The FUELS Act is getting wide spread praise from the agricultural community.

Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach says that Crawford’s bill would “be very helpful to agriculture producers – not only in the state of Arkansas – but around the nation. Engineering costs for spill prevention would be extremely expensive to agriculture producers and it would definitely affect their bottom line.”

Adam McClung, Executive Vice President of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, said his organization “Is in full support of Congressman Rick Crawford and his efforts to curtail the EPA and their over burdensome regulations on the ranchers and the cattlemen in the state of Arkansas. These producers are already aware of their operations and the environmental stewardship that goes on in their day-to-day.”

The University Of Arkansas Division Of Agriculture estimates that the EPA rule will adversely impact more than 34,000 farms in Arkansas alone. Further analysis determined that Crawford’s proposal would relieve over 25,000 Arkansas farms from the costly regulations – saving Arkansas farmers up to $252 million.

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