Wyoming’s congressional delegation defines 2012 ag prioritiesWritten by Saige Albert
Senator John Barrasso says, “One of the biggest obstacles facing our farming and ranching communities are the rules and regulations coming out of Washington.
“Wyoming’s ranchers should be focused on running their operations – not dealing with this administration’s bureaucratic red tape.”
Both Barrasso and Representative Cynthia Lummis define the Government Litigation Saving Act (S 1061/HR 1996) as one of the big issues that will remain a priority this year. The bill would serve to severely limit abuse of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) by environmental litigation groups.
HR 1996 passed the House Judiciary Committee in October, and Lummis believes that, by altering the bill to make EAJA work better for veterans and social security recipients, additional support will be gained.
Lummis will continue working in 2012 to achieve bipartisan support for the bill. Barrasso also supports the reform of EAJA and introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“For far too long, special interest groups have funded their anti-multiple use agenda with Americans’ hard earned taxpayer dollars,” says Barrasso. “Our bill halts the endless cycle of reckless lawsuits and fixes this broken system.”
The Farm Bill, last authorized in 2008, will be up for review by the agriculture committees in 2012.
Lummis explains that the Senate and House agriculture leaders submitted a proposal that included cuts of $23 billion in the next decade to the super committee, and, since the super committee did not produce a plan, the Agriculture Committee plans to build on their proposal for reauthorization.
Many of the cuts would affect mandatory programs spending levels in the next five years, according to Lummis.
Senator Mike Enzi also marks the Farm Bill as his top agriculture priority, saying that the legislation will likely be the most significant piece of legislation considered this year for the agriculture community.
For the bill, Enzi looks to continue improving the efficiency of conservation programs.
Further, Lummis points out one provision of the current Farm Bill proposal, which would consolidate the current 23 conservation programs into five groups: working lands programs, regional partnerships, easements, the Conservation Reserve Program and everything else.
The Department of Labor (DOL) proposed rules on child labor has created a stir in the agriculture world and is an area of concern for Wyoming’s delegation.
“One particular Washington rule that needs to be stopped immediately comes out of the DOL. The DOL recently proposed a rule that would ban youth under the age of 16 from participating in many common farm-related tasks,” says Barrasso. “If this rule were to go forward, many of Wyoming’s family ranches would lose a huge part of their workforce – not to mention a way of life.”
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Lummis says proposals like the child labor rules are a good example of when Congress needs to weigh in by including riders on funding legislation.
“Congress continues to work on reducing the number and scope of burdensome government regulations,” says Lummis.
She adds that the House has already passed measures to halt EPA overreach in other areas, such as day-to-day production, and measures to ensure that perceived benefits of EPA rulemaking is weighed against the cost of the actions.
“Another example of Washington overreach is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to take control of all water in the United States,” says Barrasso.
Barrasso explains that a recently issued guidance by the agency has overturned the definition of federal water of the United States, broadening that definition.
“It signifies EPA’s intention to regulate even the smallest bodies of water on private land – including mudflats, sand flats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows and natural ponds,” adds Barrasso. “There is absolutely no reason for the EPA to keep tabs on every single body of water, however small.”
Enzi also mentions that a focus on continuing to cut spending and address livestock marketing issues is at the top of his agenda for agriculture this year.
Lummis adds to her list of concerns the White House’s insistence on the removal of provisions to protect Wyoming’s wolf management plan from judicial review, saying that no plan will satisfy environmental litigation groups.
For Wyoming’s wolf plan to succeed, Lummis notes that ensuring the plan has both the time and breathing room it needs to succeed is a top priority.
Barrasso has been working on several other bills in Congress that will benefit agriculture if passed, including the Grazing Improvement Act (S 1129), the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act (S 1087) and the Employment Impact Act (S 1219).
The Grazing Improvement Act would extend livestock grazing permits from 10 to 20 years, with other reforms.
“This bill gives Wyoming’s ranching communities the certainty and stability they need,” says Barrasso.
Barrasso’s Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act would also provide ranching communities the continued ability to have input for managing multiple-use public lands.
Another bill that Barrasso has introduced that he sees as beneficial to agriculture is the Employment Impact Act, which would require federal agencies to prepare a “Jobs Impact Statement” for new rules to force the government to take the impact on jobs and the economy into account.
“There are several pieces of legislation that I’ve introduced this Congress that block Washington’s power grab over all farms, ranches, small businesses and rural communities,” says Barrasso, adding, “All of these bills work to repeal Washington’s one-size-fits all regulations that are currently strangling Wyoming’s ranching communities.”