Regulation reform sorely needed (Editorial)

by | Jul 13, 2018

Amid serious weather challenges in the region this year and the impact of tariffs with trading partners on many agricultural products, the power regulations exert on farm businesses may be appearing less in the headlines but have not disappeared from the bottom lines of farmers’ balance sheets.
Yes, some recently-instituted federal regulations have been rolled back or suspended to the benefit of farmers, but the maze of rules that farms have to follow remains daunting at best.
Results from a needs assessment conducted by University of Maryland Extension in 2017 showed farmers around the state unanimously believed that regulations and legislation are their top concern for farm viability.
The data showed a farming population that is concerned about staying up to date with the most current laws and regulations, and that firmly believes that agricultural regulations have a moderate to high effect on their farm business operations.
At the core of this bureaucratic web is the Administrative Procedure Act, which lays out the process for federal agencies forming regulations; the rules for making rules.
Passed in 1946, the APA hasn’t had substantive change in the last 72 years though the federal government has expanded enormously.
In 1946, the entire federal government raised $358 billion in revenue. In 2015, the federal deficit alone amounted to $439 billion.
Since APA was enacted, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, Superfund, wetlands regulations, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Taft-Hartley Act, Medicare, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Food Safety Modernization Act, banking laws such as Dodd-Frank, the Affordable Care Act were passed, adding layer upon layer of regulation for farm businesses to follow.
One of American Farm Bureau Federation’s main policy issues is regulatory reform and it advocates for rulemaking based on sound science, cost/benefit analysis, process transparency and vigorous congressional oversight.
Farm Bureau “strongly believes that all Americans, including farmers and ranchers, need a regulatory system that is fair, transparent, adheres to the will of Congress, takes economic impacts into account and respects our freedoms.”
It’s not rare anymore for new regulations to come out of court decisions, either.
Farm Bureau notes policies today are also increasingly determined through the courts because, over the years, federal statutes have granted individuals and organizations the right to file citizen lawsuits.
An increase in litigation has been coupled with Supreme Court decisions that grant federal agencies, through the principle of “deference,” far greater latitude in interpreting the law, AFBF says.
As a result, federal agencies can interpret federal laws in ways never explicitly approved by Congress.
Thus, AFBF policy includes litigation reform.
If farmers, along with all Americans, are to be expected to change their businesses to meet new regulations as they change, it’s reasonable to expect the process those regulations are developed change to better serve the people it proposes to protect.

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