03.08.18

Rounds Delivers Opening Statement at EPW Subcommittee Hearing on FARM Act

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight, today delivered his opening statement at a hearing entitled “Legislative Hearing on S. 2421, the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act.” Rounds introduced the FARM Act with a bipartisan group of senators earlier this year.

 

“American farmers and ranchers are already required to comply with multiple federal regulations governing how they run their operations,” said Rounds in his opening statement. “Complying with these federal regulations require hours of paperwork, time, money and resources, all of which take them away from actually being able to work on their land. We should not make them subject to additional layers of bureaucracy that Congress never intended them to be subject to… The FARM Act prevents U.S. farmers and ranchers from being subject to needless regulations that have no environmental benefit.”

 

Full video of opening remarks: HERE

 

Rounds’ opening statement, as prepared for delivery:

 

The Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight is meeting today to conduct a legislative hearing on S. 2421, the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or FARM Act.

 

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA, was established to manage hazardous waste, and respond to environmental emergencies, spills and natural disasters.

 

Under CERCLA, the owner or operator of a facility must report the release of a certain amount of a hazardous substance to authorities within 24 hours. 

 

This is to make certain that first responders have the information they need to adequately respond to a release of a hazardous substance into the environment and surrounding community.

 

Although ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are both considered hazardous substances under CERCLA, and both are emitted into the air from animal manure, Congress never intended normal agricultural operations and American farmers to be subject to the reporting requirements under these laws.

 

CERCLA was intended to make certain state and federal officials have the information they need in the event they have to respond to an emergency release of a hazardous substance.

 

It is unlikely federal officials would be required to respond to an emergency release at a cattle operation or a poultry farm, particularly one resulting from animal waste or emissions.

 

Further, it is unlikely the U.S. Coast Guard, which coordinates CERCLA reporting, has the resources to manage the nearly 200,000 farms that would be required to report their daily activities under this rule.

 

This additional burden on resources could potentially hinder the ability of first responders to respond to real emergencies. 

 

Accordingly, in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a rule exempting animal waste at agricultural operations from CERCLA reporting.

 

However, in 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court, in Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA, vacated the EPA’s 2008 rule.

 

This decision leaves approximately 200,000 American farmers subject to bureaucratic and burdensome reporting and paperwork requirements that may overwhelm first responders, while the benefits of this regulation are questionable at best.

 

That is why I have worked with Senator Fischer, Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member Carper and the rest of my bipartisan colleagues to introduce the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or “FARM” Act.

 

This legislation would reinstate the CERCLA reporting exemption for air emissions from animal waste so that American farmers and ranchers will not be burdened by needless federal regulations, and can continue to do what they do best.

 

American farmers and ranchers are already required to comply with multiple federal regulations governing how they run their operations. 

 

Complying with these federal regulations require hours of paperwork, time, money and resources, all of which take them away from actually being able to work on their land.

 

We should not make them subject to additional layers of bureaucracy that Congress never intended them to be subject to.

 

It should also be noted that CERCLA is the basis for EPA’s Superfund program. 

 

This law was intended to allow the EPA to coordinate cleanups of hazardous waste, or superfund sites.

 

A U.S. farm or ranch is most certainly not a superfund site, and should not be regulated as such.

 

The FARM Act prevents U.S. farmers and ranchers from being subject to needless regulations that have no environmental benefit.

 

I’d like to thank Senator Fischer and Chairman Barrasso for their leadership on this issue. 

 

I am glad we are able to work in a bipartisan fashion to move this bill forward.

 

Our witnesses today are members of the agricultural community with decades of experience in farming and ranching. 

 

They are well-versed in agricultural operations and how federal regulations affect their way of life and their ability to do business and provide the food that we all rely on.

 

I’d like to thank our witnesses for being here with us today and I look forward to hearing your testimony.

 

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