Regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could be the No. 1 concern of the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2012.
That is, if there isn't a one-year reprieve.
"I suspect we're going to get a little bit of a one-year reprieve on the regs being so awful," Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations for AFBF, told AgriTalk radio on Friday.
With President Obama hearing negative comments about the regulations, EPA may back off between now and the November election, she said. Once the election takes place and if Obama is re-elected, “we can expect the next four years — when he’s not up for re-election — to be very, very difficult,” she added.
Politics have been infused into the situation and there is a “tumultuous relationship between agriculture and the EPA right now,” she said.
For instance, there are regulations that would supposedly regulate dust on farms. Some in the Obama Administration, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, say there are no plans to regulate dust. Yes, Thatcher adds, “EPA said as of a month ago they aren’t going to move forward. But there’s nothing that says next week, next month, right after the election they won’t decide to move forward,” she said.
Regarding the proposed regulations that would restrict child labor on farms, Thatcher said she applauds Secretary Vilsack for trying to work with the U.S. Department of Labor so that the DOL has a better understanding of agriculture and what takes place on farm.
"I think whether it’s DOL or EPA, you’ve got a lot of people writing regs who don’t understand agriculture or have never been on a farm,” she said.
Thatcher also commented on the gridlock that is taking place in Washington with government divided between the Republicans and Democrats. Partisanship is stronger today, Thatcher says, than anytime she can remember in the past.
“The bipartisanship is pretty much nil,” she added.
She said the American Farm Bureau Federation will also keep an eye on Farm Bill discussions in 2012. It will be far better to get a bill written in 2012 than to wait until 2013, she says. Conventional wisdom is that Congress will be more generous in an election year. And, the impetus to cut the federal budget deficit may become stronger as time goes by.