All Americans have an interest in a regulatory process that is transparent, is fact-based, respects the will of Congress and observes the separation of powers in the Constitution. Farm Bureau strongly believes that all Americans, including farmers, need a regulatory system that is fair and transparent, adheres to the will of Congress, takes economic impacts into account and respects our freedoms.
Federal regulations have a direct impact on farmers. Over the years, the breadth and extent of that regulatory landscape have increased. Today, agricultural producers are faced with a flurry of requirements that impact many facets of agriculture. Often, these requirements are the result of federal regulations; sometimes they emanate from court decisions. However they are established, the result is often controversial. Stakeholders disagree on the language in the statute; affected parties disagree on the science, the data or the models underpinning one or the other.
The Administrative Procedures Act (APA) is the principal federal statute that governs how regulations are promulgated. Enacted in 1946, the law has not substantially changed in the 70 years it has been on the books – even while the federal government has expanded enormously. In 1946, when the APA was signed into law, the entire federal government raised $358 billion in revenues; in 2015, the deficit alone amounted to $439 billion. When the APA went on the books, the federal regulatory landscape did not include the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, Superfund, wetlands regulations, Medicare, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), banking laws such as Dodd-Frank or the Affordable Care Act. All of these statutes generate regulations that impact our everyday lives.
Policies today are also increasingly determined as the result of litigation. Beginning in the 1970s, citizen lawsuit provisions were added to many environmental statutes, and one law in particular—the ESA—has gotten pre-eminence over many other laws. In 1984 in its Chevron decision, the Supreme Court established the principle that courts must show ‘deference’ to federal agency interpretations of the statutes that they administer, even if the agency’s interpretation is not the best reading of the words of the statute. Another Supreme Court decision, Auer v. Robbins, issued in 1997, required an even higher level of deference to agency interpretations of their own regulations—essentially allowing agencies to write vague or ambiguous regulations and later interpret those rules to mean whatever the agency wants.
Farm Bureau asks Congress to support meaningful reform of the federal regulatory system. Farm Bureau policy contains many recommendations to improve the federal regulatory system including: the use of sound science; having USDA coordinate with EPA on regulations affecting agriculture; estimating the costs and benefits of regulations; ensuring transparency in the rulemaking process; vigorous congressional oversight; a minimum 60-day comment period on proposed rules; limiting federal agencies’ ability to use social media and similar resources in relation to pending rules; and litigation reform.
On the regulatory side, we support the EPA’s newly proposed Clean Water Rule, and are seeking finalization and promulgation of the rule.