Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin C. Peterson gave the opening statement at the full committee hearing to review the impact of EPA regulation on agriculture.

As Prepared for Delivery

“Good afternoon and thank you Chairman Lucas for holding today’s hearing.

“I’m hearing a lot from the guys in my district and they are really worried about what the EPA is up to. I’ve met with producer groups from across the country and EPA regulations are nearly always on the top of their agenda.

“With all due respect to the Administrator and her testimony regarding EPA’s commitment to science, transparency and the rule of law, farmers in the countryside don’t see that. They see an out of control agency that doesn’t understand agriculture and doesn’t want to understand. Today’s hearing gives the agency a chance to respond to this perspective.

“For me, I keep hearing that EPA is only doing what the courts are telling them to do, and I see that in some lawsuits. The problem is that many cases aren’t litigated to the point where a court makes a ruling. Instead, there seems to be a pattern of a lawsuit, followed by an EPA settlement, resulting in policy changes to comply with the settlement. This has been going on far too often and many times without adequate public disclosure.

“We’ve watched organizations use the courts to twist laws against American farmers and agricultural production. More and more we are seeing important policy decisions that impact agriculture arise not from the legislative process, but from a litigation process where court decisions or secret lawsuit settlement negotiations result in poor policy decisions. If we don’t work together to find a solution, producers will likely continue being told how to operate by bureaucrats, lawyers and judges who don’t understand agriculture. This is not the way to make agriculture policy.

“Policy should be developed in an open and transparent manner; unfortunately this “sue-and-settle” strategy keeps the process in the dark. I’ve started looking into this and it’s almost impossible to find copies of settlement agreements that have been negotiated by EPA and their Department of Justice counterparts. These agreements frequently contain provisions that are critical to agriculture and rural communities but they’re only coming to light after the fact. This needs to be a transparent process; the agreements need to be easily accessible to the public at one location on EPA’s website, and any damages or costs included in the settlement agreements must also be readily available.

“I think there’s an opportunity for Congress to address some of these problems. The challenge from the Agriculture Committee’s perspective though is that we have very little jurisdiction over the regulatory issues of concern to producers. I’m hopeful that there are some areas, such as the legislation we passed yesterday, where we can work with other Committees to straighten out some of the things that are going on. I’ve already told Chairman Lucas that he has my commitment that this side of the aisle will work with Republicans to make sure that we do things right.

“American agriculture has traditionally led the way to recovery during periods of economic stress; and we are seeing that now. The last thing we need is a new set of regulations on the segment of the economy that is leading the recovery. There are many issues under EPA’s purview that could have a direct impact on both agriculture producers and rural communities. I look forward to Administrator Jackson updating us on what is and what is not happening on these issues.

“Again, I thank the Chair for holding today’s hearing. I hope we will be able to continue these discussions, not just exploring EPA regulations but regulations coming from other federal agencies, at future hearings.”

Read testimony by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Source: House Committee on Agriculture