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Bipartisan Bill Would Ensure Farmer Voice in Environmental Decisions
Nebraska Ag Connection - 03/16/2011

U.S. senators Dick Lugar of Indiana and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as U.S. Congressmen Bruce Braley of Iowa and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure that American farmers are represented in the decision-making process for environmental policies and regulations that could affect U.S. agriculture.

Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson signed on as an original cosponsor of the Representation for Farmers Act, which aims to give farmers an increased voice in the government’s decision-making process for environmental policies that could affect farmland in Nebraska and nationwide.

“It is important for farmers to have a say about the rules and regulations that will have a direct impact on their livelihood – before those rules become the law of the land,” said Senator Nelson, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “By giving farmers a voice in the review process, we can limit the unintended consequences of new policies. Good intentions and common sense can come together to protect the environment without hurting the abilities of American farmers to produce the safest, highest quality food in the world.”

The Klobuchar-Lugar Representation for Farmers Act would give the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to appoint up to three members with agricultural backgrounds to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Board. The legislation aims to increase the share of on-the-farm technical advice the EPA considers when determining how or whether to implement proposed regulations. Currently, only three of the board’s 48 members have agricultural backgrounds.

“Regulatory actions taken by the EPA can have significant impacts on farmers of all sizes. The ability of our nation’s farms to continue to safely produce an abundant food supply is imperative, and I believe this bill will improve the regulatory decision-making process,” Lugar said.

The EPA Science Advisory Board is charged with providing analysis and recommendations for EPA regulations and other technical matters that often impact the U.S. agriculture industry. Farmers have become increasingly concerned that EPA decisions are creating unnecessary and undue economic hardship. Recent issues prompting concern include proposals to regulate dust on farm roads and driveways and new requirements for dairy operations to have the same spill-prevention plans that are required of oil operations.

The House companion bill will be introduced later this week.

The legislation has been endorsed by the National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers Association, National Wheat Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

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