What is in this article?:
- Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford on ag-related concerns, legislation.
- Tax reform/fixes, FUELS Act, Lacey Act, and agriculture research funding.
FUELS Act/privacy concerns
Crawford’s “Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act” would alleviate farms’ regulatory burdens by allowing larger fuel tank sizes without containment structures. Currently, the EPA says farms must have containment structures for oil storage facilities of more than 1,320 gallon. The FUELS Act would up that limit to 10,000 gallons.
“We’ve had a lot of success with (the FUELS Act) in the House,” said Crawford. “In fact, it’s been unanimously passed six times in the same form, never amended. It was passed out of committee three or four time, passed on the floor twice and it was in the farm bill. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee transferred jurisdiction to us so we could move it in the farm bill.”
Most recently, the act passed again on March 11 with a voice vote.
“Unfortunately, the Senate isn’t interested in working with us,” said Crawford. “But after it passed for the sixth time maybe they’ll get the message.”
Crawford said, if enacted, the legislation would save farmers, “tens of thousands of dollars in compliance costs they could otherwise use to cash-flow their operations. The University of Arkansas did a study on the FUELS Act that showed in Arkansas alone it would save $25 million. Across the country, you’re talking about $3.5 billion in savings for farmers.
“The reality is we’ve taken the threshold of 10,000 gallons right out of the Clean Water Act. The EPA has defined a ‘small farmer’ as 10,000 gallons so we’re playing by their rules. We want to codify that and make sure we’re not putting an undue burden on farmers who have, in documented history, not had any spills of a magnitude that even a 1,320 gallon threshold calls for. We’re just trying to rein in the EPA and put a bit of operating capital back into farms.”
Another of Crawford’s concerns with the EPA is the willingness of the agency to release the private information of farmers.
“We’re trying to pass the Farmer Identity Protection Act. We have a lot of support with that, as you might imagine. Certainly it’s a privacy issue.
“There were a couple of breaches (in 2013) when the EPA, through (Freedom of Information Act) requests, was able to release private, personal information on farm operations. Primarily those were CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). There were 30 states affected -- a large number in Arkansas, certainly in Mississippi, poultry operations.
“In the main, we’re concerned about a privacy breach.
“But in the bigger picture, we must look at the potential of opening ourselves up to vulnerability with respect to national security, bio-security and threats to our food security. It’s something we can’t tolerate.”
There’s great bipartisan support for the legislation, said Crawford. “And we expect if it’s taken up in the Senate it’ll move. We’re going to keep on with this. We had some success with it in the farm bill conference but it’ll require more partners to make sure we get it done.”