August 05, 2013

Manchin, Kirk, Davis Bill Would Require Farmer Input on EPA Regulations

Legislation gives rural America a seat at the table when EPA drafts new rules that affect agriculture

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today announced their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to require the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to review any proposed rule or regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that may affect agriculture and to seek farmers’ advice and recommendations. The Review EPA’s Language on Agriculture and Thoroughly Engage (RELATE) with the Farm Act of 2013 allows farmers to provide feedback on proposed new EPA rules that impact the farming industry. Last week, Senators Kirk and Manchin introduced the RELATE with the Farm Act in the Senate, and the House of Representatives approved similar legislation by voice vote as an amendment to the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which passed the House by a vote of 232-183.

“It just makes sense that the Department of Agriculture and farmers have a seat at the table when a government agency, such as the EPA, proposes new regulations that directly impact the agriculture industry,” Manchin said. “This bill not only makes sure that there is greater transparency when new rules are introduced, but it gives our farmers more confidence in the regulatory process, which will ultimately help improve our economy and promote job creation.”

“Farmers know better than the EPA how regulations affect them, but all too often the EPA fails to consider the impact its rules will have on rural America,” Kirk said. “Agriculture is critical to the Illinois economy and this bill will give our farmers an opportunity to advise regulators on policies that may harm the agricultural community.”

“Whether it is rules treating milk spills like oil spills, discussions about further regulating farm dust or the recent revelation that the agency released personal information of thousands of Combined Animal Feeding Operation owners, it is quite clear that the EPA does not understand agriculture,” Davis said. “Farmers are good stewards of the land who help our economy and produce our food. Before the EPA’s next proposed rule or regulation impacting agriculture hits, let’s get agriculture a seat at the table to play a role in the process.”

The RELATE with the Farm Act would require the Secretary of Agriculture to review the EPA’s regulatory agenda and notify the EPA if any proposed rule or regulation would have a significant impact on agriculture. The USDA would produce an economic impact statement and gather advice and recommendations from farmers and agricultural entities that would be affected. The bill would require the USDA and EPA to form a review panel to consider these recommendations, and to publish the panel’s final report in the Federal Register and on the USDA website.

Senators Manchin and Kirk introduced the bill in the Senate (S. 1466) on August 1, 2013. The House version of the bill (H.R. 2776), which Representative Davis introduced on July 22, 2013, currently has 33 co-sponsors. The legislation is modeled after an existing law requiring the Small Business Administration to participate in the rulemaking process when OSHA, EPA or CFPB propose a rule that affects small business. The text of the bill is available here.