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January 2001

Implementing Our Policies in the Courts


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Farm Bureau members face this new year with optimism and enthusiasm. We have the opportunity to work with a new administration and a new congress to implement our policies that will provide us with economic and social benefits. Getting laws enacted that satisfactorily deal with our issues is sometimes not enough, however. Congressional intent and regulatory decree often are widely divergent. Frequently, there comes the time when reason, persuasion and cooperation fail and we must turn to the courts to assure fair treatment.

I expect your national Farm Bureau to seek fairness in the courts frequently this year and am focusing our resources so we are ready when the need arises. Because of the incredibly close balance between Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress, career bureaucrats will rule, especially in the environmental arena. Why? Because party-line responses will preclude Congress from initiating reforms and conducting the necessary oversight of the agencies and departments. Having so many of our Farm Bureau policies implemented by court order is both distressing and expensive, and very necessary as long as bureaucrats issue regulations contrary to the law.

Supreme Decisions are Sometimes Needed

Arbitrary EPA water standards threaten to cost three California families' timber operations $10 million in lost timber revenue, even though they have a state-approved harvesting plan. EPA does not have, and admits it does not have, authority over states to regulate nonpoint source pollution. Contrived air quality standards are just as costly. A rule calling for lower sulfur content in diesel fuel exhaust will cost us thousands of dollars to retrofit or replace our engines. A rule aimed at lowering particulate matter in the air – like dust – would require extraordinary changes in our farming practices. So we are in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that EPA must take into account the costs of regulations on businesses and consumers, in addition to any health benefits.

Agriculture won a major victory when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Farm Bureau's arguments and ruled that the U.S. Corps of Engineers did not have the right to regulate isolated wetlands. Previously, the Corps had claimed jurisdiction because migratory birds might use the waters. The court said the Clean Water Act grants authority to the Corps only over wetlands that are connected to or adjacent to interstate or navigable waters. According to the court, the ruling affects 93 million acres of scattered ponds and prairie potholes.

Farm Bureau Seeks Justice and Fairness for Us

A U.S. District Court judge will soon consider a Farm Bureau lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for its heavy-handed implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act. Our goal is to make the agency adhere to sound science in the belief that this will assure farmers and ranchers continued access to safe, effective and economical agricultural chemicals. In the agency's zeal to eliminate pesticides, it has failed to announce emergency exemption tolerance levels; failed to comply with important procedural requirements and coerced pesticide manufacturers to agree "voluntarily" to the discontinuation of targeted chemicals.

Farm Bureau was quick to defend farmers and ranchers who participate in federal animal damage control programs. Animal rights groups asked USDA for the names and addresses of participants to put in a "Hall of Shame" on the Internet. Farm Bureau quickly obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent USDA from releasing the information yet the department let some out anyway. We are now seeking an injunction to make the judge's decision permanent and we want USDA to respect our privacy and honor their pledge of confidentiality. The activist groups are now going to state agriculture departments for the information so we have already obtained temporary restraining orders there, as well.

Your Farm Bureau is involved in other cases covering other issues. There is little doubt that we will be represented in more this year. We are exploring the creation of a separate legal foundation, dedicated to implementing our policies in the courts. We are successful now. We will be even stronger soon.