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Regulations could add up on farms

Published Aug. 13, 2009 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News

Farm Bureau is working at the national level to defend farmers from what it believes to be onerous regulatory proposals.

Food Safety

While the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said there is still room for improvement, it believes progress has been made in limiting the burden that an overhaul of the food safety system would put on farmers.

A proposed plan to expand the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate and oversee on-farm activities had posed a threat to small farmers in particular.

The Food Safety Enhancement Act had the potential to enact “extensive recordkeeping, reporting and traceability measures which may not be feasible or practical for many producers,” according to AFBF.

Language had been adjusted in the House bill exempting farms from registering and paying fees to FDA as required of some food facilities. The new language also reined in the reach the federal government would have had into farmers' records as part of a food traceability system and limited its food quarantine authority. FDA also would not be given oversight over activities already regulated by USDA.

AFBF has said adequate funding, increased education and training for inspectors, development of rapid testing procedures and tools, and compensation for producers who suffer marketing losses due to in accurate government advised recalls are critical considerations as the federal food safety system is evaluated.

Clean Water Act

Legislation that would remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act and allow the Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency to regulate all interstate and intrastate waters could put farmers in “regulatory quicksand,” according to AFBF testimony to a House committee.

AFBF contends the legislation would give the federal government the right to regulate any body of water, from farm ponds to storm water retention basins to roadside ditches to desert washes.

The organization also has said expanding the scope of the Clean Water Act would sweep many agricultural and forestry activities under Clean Water Act regulation simply because such activities are conducted near some isolated ditch, swale, wash, erosion feature or ephemeral stream that would newly be deemed a “water of the United States.”

Antibiotics

Farmers would be prevented from using antibiotics to prevent or manage animal health issues if new legislation becomes a reality. Instead, farmers could only give antibiotics to animals after they have become sick.

“In order to treat sick animals you generally have to use a higher dosage of antibiotics than you do in a preventative manner. So we really have some real concerns about whether this legislation, if it were to pass, would even reduce the total amount of antibiotics used,” said Kelli Ludlum, AFBF congressional relations director.

Ludlum said the bill’s assumption that antibiotic use in livestock leads to antibiotic resistance in humans is not backed by scientific studies. The regulations are also another step in making American producers less competitive, she said.

Climate Change

AFBF President Bob Stallman said rushing a climate bill through the Senate would be the ‘height of folly.’

AFBF believes that mandates to reduce carbon emissions in the United States have little impact if other countries do not follow suit. Stallman also said that the bill’s inclusion of an offset program, in which farmers would be able earn money from mitigating carbon emissions, does not solve the increased costs they would face as a result of the regulations.

He noted it is not always feasible for farmers to engage in carbon-reducing practices such as capturing methane from livestock, installing wind turbines, implementing no-till practices or setting land aside to plant trees.

“Yet, these producers will incur the same increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs as their counterparts who can benefit from the offsets market,” he said.



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