Fighting EPA’s $252 Million ‘Tax’ on Arkansas Farmers

Weekly Column: October 21,2011

In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly passed a rule requiring farmers and ranchers to prepare a spill containment plan for oil products stored on their property. The new rule requires producers who store 1,320 or more gallons of fuel to build a special wall or basin around fuel storage facilities and have the structures certified by a professional engineer. This type of intrusive regulation from Washington bureaucrats would cost small farmers and ranchers tens of thousands of dollars.

The University Of Arkansas Division Of Agriculture estimates the EPA’s intrusive spill containment rule would adversely impact more than 34,000 farms in Arkansas alone. This new regulation is overly broad and costly, especially in the current fragile economy, and we in Congress must act quickly to overturn it.

In July, a bi-partisan group of congressman joined me in sending EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter expressing our great concern over the new spill containment rule and the devastating effect it would have on farmers and ranchers. The letter was signed by more than 100 members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans. To this day the EPA has not responded to our letter.

Last week I introduced H.R. 3158, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act, to change the EPA rule and protect small farmers and ranchers. The FUELS Act would raise exemption levels to better reflect an agricultural producer’s spill risk and financial means. Under the FUELS Act, the exemption level for a single fuel container would be adjusted up from 1,320 gallons to 10,000 gallons while the aggregate level on a production facility would move to 42,000 gallons. My proposal would also place a greater degree of responsibility on the individual farmer or rancher to self-certify compliance.

The University of Arkansas said that the FUELS Act would relieve over 25,000 Arkansas farms from the costly spill containment regulations and save Arkansas farmers and ranchers up to $252 million.

This week the EPA announced it would not require agriculture producers to comply with the new rule until May of 2013 – roughly six months past Election Day. However, the FUELS Act is the only guarantee small farmers and ranchers have to make EPA’s rule more workable. Our farmers and ranchers should be focused on producing our nation’s food supply, not worrying about complying with onerous regulations from Washington.

Arkansas farmers and ranchers live off the land, raise their families and earn an honest living by taking care of our natural resources. If anyone understands the importance of preserving our environment for future generations, it is the family farmer. When Washington bureaucrats, many of whom have never set foot on a farm, decide to enact new regulations, they should not do so without talking to the best stewards of our land – the farmer.

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