The EPA's Billboard Blues

THE EPA'S BILLBOARD BLUES

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to lose the trust of the rural community with regulatory overreach and other actions that can only be construed as anti-farming.

For all involved, the EPA’s mishandling of several issues has been a headache. Ever since the agency released a nearly 300-page document detailing the proposed expansions to its “Waters of the U.S.” Rule, otherwise known as WOTUS, it has come under fire from legislators and a large portion of the general public. The expansions attempt to re-define which waters fall under the EPA’s and Army Corp of Engineers’ jurisdiction. This includes rivers, streams, lakes, marshes, and even much smaller water sources.

This has raised a great deal of skepticism that the EPA is making a play for greater control over our nation’s farmers and ranchers. The EPA, especially its administrator Gina McCarthy, has backed itself into a corner and has worked to incrementally win back supporters by saying that it respects agriculture while doing its job of protecting clean water.

Whatever progress, if any, the agency made has been erased given recent events. In the state of Washington, billboards were erected in the cities of Olympia and Bellingham which depict agriculture in a sinister fashion. Each billboard states, “Unregulated agriculture is putting our waterways at risk.” The billboards were put up by environmental groups to promote What’s Upstream, a media campaign to link agriculture with water pollution. Image courtesy of Don Jenkins/Capital Press

Image courtesy of Don Jenkins/Capital Press[/caption] The controversy stems from the billboard’s funding. The groups used EPA grant money, funded by taxpayer dollars, to discredit American farmers and ranchers. Additionally, the billboard makes no mention of the EPA’s financial support, which is standard for EPA fund recipients.

Lawmakers have erupted over this egregious error in judgment. This Tuesday, 145 bipartisan House members signed a letter to Gina McCarthy expressing their deep concern over the billboards. Their constituents in the agriculture community are furious for being labeled as unregulated (which couldn’t be further from the truth) and a risk to our water supply (an irresponsible accusation that harms producers AND consumers). There is no doubt that certain regulatory efforts are necessary to ensure our safety. Unfortunately, many believe that a misuse of authority has led to the EPA running wild over our nation’s food producers. They cannot do their job of providing us with a nutritious, abundant food supply if they are dealing with an influential government agency that potentially has it out for them.

As Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) stated:

“This disturbing billboard is a bold example of exactly what America’s farmers and ranchers complain about all the time: the EPA has an agenda antagonistic to producers. Whether it’s overly burdensome and costly regulations or something as obvious as this this malicious billboard, the EPA has much to answer for in maligning those that grow the food and fiber to feed the world. Our farmers and ranchers are stewards of the land and want to see our natural resources protected as much as any other American. While there are legal concerns with the lack of disclosure of EPA’s involvement, the billboard is another example of EPA’s improper practice of encouraging the lobbying of legislators. How and why the EPA has allowed taxpayer dollars to be used to attack any industry, including our vital agriculture producers, demands answers.”

If the EPA doesn't amend this, its standing in rural America will continue to plummet. It can save itself a lot of anxiety if it listens to the people and finds some common ground.

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