Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a committee hearing titled “The Impact of Federal Environmental Regulations and Policies on American Farming and Ranching Communities.”

The hearing featured testimony from Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau; Niels Hansen, secretary and treasurer of the Public Lands Council and member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; Dr. Howard Hill, president of the National Pork Producers Council; Michael Scuse, secretary of agriculture for the state of Delaware; and Donn Teske, vice president of the National Farmers Union.

For more information on their testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Today we will hold a hearing on the impact of federal environmental regulations and policies on American farming and ranching communities.

“The discussion here today is not about the value of environmental regulations, but about how some federal regulations can be inflexible, antiquated, duplicative, and ultimately harmful to American agriculture, a critical part of our nation’s economy.

“Members of this committee should work to ensure environmental laws are strong, and effective; without being overly burdensome.

“This is often a difficult task. The United States is blessed with diverse ecosystems that often require different kinds of stewardship to remain healthy.

“In Wyoming, we have an abundance of sagebrush prairie, coniferous forests, a variety of mountain habitats, and wetlands.

“Wyoming’s ranchers and farmers are familiar with each ecosystem and its needs.

“This is where they work, live, and invest their energies.

“Farmers and ranchers are the original stewards –they understand that landscapes and watersheds need to be healthy to support native plants, wildlife, crops, and livestock.

“They are living proof that interacting with nature can be done in an environmentally-sound way, often leaving the resources in better condition than they found them.

“Washington policies do not always translate well in rural America.

“When I am home in Wyoming, I often hear how out of touch environmental regulations have become.

“For far too long, the people who feed, clothe, and house our nation have been burdened by policies that fail to reflect on-the-ground realities.

“We can look no further than the Obama Administration’s failed ‘Waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) rule.

“Under that rule, farmers and ranchers across the country were told their irrigation ditches, ponds, and puddles were ‘navigable waters,’ and could be regulated by the federal government.

“I am happy to say that last week, the delay in implementation of the WOTUS rule became final, giving the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers time to make sure that any new rule protects America’s water resources while not unnecessarily burdening farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities across America.

“When writing legislation, Congress must take care to ensure policy actually achieves the desired objective.

“Agencies must do the same when developing regulations.

“I believe we should prioritize updating and revising policies that while well-intentioned, were not designed to micromanage agricultural production.

“One example is new animal waste emission reporting requirements. Over the past several months, farmers and ranchers struggled to comply with an ambiguous agency directive following an April 2017 decision in the D.C. Circuit Court.

“The decision fundamentally changed reporting requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, collectively known as CERCLA-EPCRA.

“The ruling meant up to 100,000 farmers and ranchers, who had never been required to report under these laws, were suddenly required to comply.

“Even though they wanted to comply with the ruling, the process and implications of compliance were unclear.

“Because both CERCLA and EPCRA were not written with the intent of regulating these farms and ranches, the requirement to report emissions from animal waste came without context and largely without agency guidance.

“Let me turn now to NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. We cannot discuss environmental regulations and their impact on agriculture operations without mentioning NEPA.

“NEPA is at the core of every decision in each land use plan, resource management proposal, trailing and crossing permit, and grazing allotment farmers and ranchers need.

“NEPA is not limited to agriculture. For years, we have discussed the effect NEPA has had on delaying the construction of roads, bridges, parks, reservoirs, and other critical infrastructure.

“While environmental analysis can be important, in many cases, completing NEPA takes far too long.

“As NEPA delays stifle improvements around the farm or ranch, calves and lambs grow and are sold, ecosystem needs change, and farmers, ranchers, and their families wait for an answer.

“As we will hear from today’s witnesses, these are families whose lives, livelihoods, hopes, and dreams are inseparable from the lands and waters they work so hard to keep clean.

“These are not only examples of punishing regulations that farmers and ranchers, and the communities they live in face.

“Today we will also hear about: duplicative permitting requirements of the application of pesticides already covered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act or FIFRA; issues of privacy and the collection of data on ranchers and farmers; and how the Endangered Species Act has been implemented and the subsequent negative impact on farming and ranching operations.

“These and other examples will be discussed so we, as a committee, can better understand how we can help these hardworking communities across our country.”