Republican members of the Senate Agriculture Committee met with McCarthy Tuesday, but stances on water appear unchanged.
by Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (DTN) — Republican members of the Senate Agriculture Committee finally got their meeting with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Tuesday and urged her to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. rule, but a McCarthy spokeswoman said issues with the rule can be handled in the agency's comment process.
McCarthy got an earful about the agency's problems in rural America. In what appeared to be a coordinated effort, three senators all issued immediate news releases criticizing the administration and the EPA proposal.
“The Waters of the United States proposal and the agriculture interpretive rule are a source of uncertainty, anxiety and distrust for people in rural areas,” said Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who was one of the senators who asked McCarthy in May for a meeting.
“This is particularly true for states like Mississippi whose economies are built on agriculture production and where landowners want the peace of mind that what they are doing is not subject to ever more regulations,” said Cochran, who has sponsored legislative measures to stop or withdraw the WOTUS proposal.
But Cochran added, “I appreciate Administrator McCarthy agreeing to hear our concerns, and I hope the concerns we shared on behalf of our constituents will prompt the EPA to engage with agriculture organizations and to abandon or at least rethink some of the regulations it wants to impose.”
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in the meeting he expressed frustration with the agency's recent dismissal of concerns from Kansans regarding the proposed Waters of the U.S. rules.
Roberts took issue with the EPA's recent campaign that called these concerns “myths.” Roberts cited McCarthy's recent trip to Missouri to talk about the proposed regulation.
“Farmers and ranchers had hoped they would be able to persuade you to recognize the far-reaching and negative impacts of the proposed and interpretive rules, but the reports back have not been positive. To hear that their concerns were categorized as 'silly' or 'ludicrous' is truly frustrating,” Roberts said.
“No question this administration has a poor track record with agricultural interests on any number of issues,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
“I reiterated my concerns with the Waters of the U.S. rule, and the unease I'm hearing from Iowans at my town meetings,” Grassley said.
“I shared with the administrator a story I read in my local Farm Bureau Spokesman about how the federal government can't even make a decision about whether a farmer needs a permit to put in conservation practices on his own land,” he said.
“It's hard to believe how the EPA thinks it can manage new rules when this unhelpful approach and general negative attitude toward agriculture seem to be standard protocol. I appreciate the administrator coming to the Hill to talk with us, but the meeting did little to alleviate my concerns that the agency isn't listening to the people its rules will directly impact.”
Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman for McCarthy, responded in an email to DTN:
“The administrator was happy to accept the invitation and appreciated the meeting. That's why we have this comment period [on the Waters of the United States rule], which was extended until October, so we can hear directly from people about the proposed rule to protect our nation's water and we'll continue to have those conversations.
“We know that know that no one understands the importance of water quality better than the agriculture community,” Purchia added. “They are the standard-bearer for stewardship of our nation's land and water, while growing a farm economy that's the envy of the world.
“The administrator believes, and has said, we don't have to sacrifice sensible environmental protections for a strong farm economy.
“If we can clear things up, we can clean things up. We can cut red tape, cut costs to taxpayers, and cut down on a lot of frustration. And we'll protect drinking water for 117 million people. We can protect people and property, without getting in the way of farmers and ranchers doing their jobs.
“We've done it before — from farm equipment emissions standards to safer pesticide use, we've put aside differences, put our trust in science, and forged partnerships in the name of progress.”
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Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp