Wyo Farm Bureau members weigh in during Issues Advisory Committee meetings
Issues affecting farming and ranching prevail across the country, whether the concerns surround farm policy, regulations, federal lands or a host of others. The American Farm Bureau’s (AFBF) Issue Advisory Committees (IAC) have representatives on each committee from selected state Farm Bureaus to discuss issues and develop policy ideas.
The AFBF IAC met March 8-9 in Washington, D.C. for the annual Issues Advisory Meetings with two Wyoming Farm Bureau members attending – Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) Vice President Cole Coxbill, Environmental Regulations Committee and Federal Lands Committee Keith Hamilton.
When the AFBF IAC Environmental Regulations committee met in early March, the members discussed two bills that would clarify air emissions from animal waste on the farm are not applicable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Senate Bill S. 2421, the FARM Act, and HR 5275, the corresponding House bill, known as the ACRE Act, both stated farmers do not need to report their emissions.
Additional good news comes from HR 1625, the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending bill, which was signed into law on March 23. The spending bill included a permanent exemption for CERCLA reporting requirements for farmers and ranchers.
Coxbill explains why CERCLA bills would have been so detrimental.
“If a producer owned more than 208 head of cattle, they would have had to file a written documentation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and would also have had to update it every time they moved cattle. A corresponding rule would have made ranchers report to first responders, since these two rules treated cattle manure as a hazardous waste.”
Even with the CERCLA fix in the omnibus spending bill, it’s still important to realize its potential ramifications and the fact it was impossible to enforce.
“The environmental regulations committee spent a lot of time on issues like CERCLA because it’s an example of what happens with a rule going through the government, even if that rule is not based on common sense,” Coxbill said. “Even if there is an ag exemption, we may see environmental groups attacking the exemption.”
The group discussed trying to get the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) passed quickly, which provides for federal regulation of pesticide distribution, sale and use.
Coxbill commented, “We support FIFRA as it’s quick and easy to regulate how pesticides need to be registered and information dispersed.”
There were stories about how regulations regarding invasive and endangered species affected the forestry and fish.
“They were never meant to harm agriculture,” he notes, “and now the use of regulations surrounding that issue are being exaggerated.”
A few of these stories centered around the unintended movement of invasive species by people involved with forestry and fish. For example, if someone moves a school of fish across state lines and that fish is considered an invasive species, the state Fish and Game entity considers the offense a misdemeanor. However, the same action carries a $200,000 fine from the federal government.
Coxbill explained the same impact is felt by people who have a lumber operation. If they buy imported pallets of wood and there’s an insect present that they didn’t realize was there, it causes the person who purchased the pallets a lot of trouble.
Hamilton said federal management of wildfires was another hot-button issue across the country in the Federal Lands Committee.
“East, west, north and south and people from Michigan to Georgia and Arkansas said there are issues with the Forest Service taking extra time before they fight the fires,” Hamilton explained. “By the time they were ready to fight, the fires were completely out of control.”
He continued, “In addition, with 50 percent of their budget going to wildfires, they don’t have much left over to provide other services.”
Department of the Interior
Hamilton also shared concerns about Wyoming’s overpopulation of wild horses and their detrimental effect on sage grouse populations.”
“There are 80,000 wild horses on our Wyoming public land. We can’t get them rounded up, so the range is being destroyed,” Hamilton noted. “It negatively affects the livestock permittees, the wildlife and the range.”
He said the horses also impact sage grouse.
“In Wyoming, we have more sage grouse than any state,” he said. “We’re proud of that, and we hate to see wild horses get in the way of thoughtful sage grouse management.”
Hamilton said, although there is talk about the Department of the Interior moving west, “Let’s not lose track of what we need to get done now. I think the opportunity is right for us to make sensible reforms regarding grazing regulations and land use.”
This was the third year Coxbill has attended the IAC meetings in Washington, D.C. He served on the Irrigation and Water Committee for two years. During his second year, the committee was divided, and water became its own committee.
The young rancher has one more year on the Environmental Regulations Committee.
He finds the meetings very productive.
“Sharing information on these issues and learning details about them as they affect ag producers across the country is very worthwhile,” commented Coxbill.
Hamilton also sees IAC as a valuable teaching tool for AFBF Public Policy staff.
“These committees give AFBF staff like Ryan Yates an understanding of our thoughts and why we think that way,” said Hamilton. “This is my first year on the Federal Lands Committee. It’s a good opportunity for western states to share our concerns with our counterparts in the East and South.”
Hamilton continued, “I’m hoping, because of our discussions, we can generate support on critical western issues. With the Department of the Interior being more understanding of western issues, it’s prime time for AFBF to do some good. We need to work together and present a united front on federal lands issues.”
Rebecca Colnar is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.