AFBF's Legal Advocacy Program - October 2011
Agricultural producers have been aware and participated in public policy for a long time. The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation is coming up on its 92nd year and a good part of our history has been working on legislative and administrative issues.
Both the Executive branch and the Legislative branch have important implications for our operations. We have also been aware for a number of years how important it is to participate in the Judicial branch, but because most producers don't have a working relationship with that branch, and the cost of working and playing in that arena is significant, we sometimes find ourselves reluctant to participate.
With the recent revelations by Karen Budd-Falen of the misuses by certain factory fund raising organizations of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) it is clear that some who have long criticized food production, have found that not only is the judicial branch important for advancing their cause, it can also be profitable. However, in agriculture, we still need to actively participate. Many county Farm Bureaus support legal foundations such as Mountain States and Pacific Legal and both of these foundations have provided some significant victories against unbridled bureaucrats.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has also ratcheted up their level of participation in the Judicial branch with their Legal Advocacy Program. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a program to extend the agency's reach beyond their current legal authority using questionable science in the Chesapeake Bay the American Farm Bureau's legal team filed a suit against the agency challenging their actions. The agency has made no qualms about their action in the Chesapeake Bay. If they are successful there, they plan on extending their over reach to the Mississippi River water shed. In fact, they have begun the process as we speak. This action was forced on agriculture despite efforts to get Congressional action, led by our own Senator Barrasso, to get EPA to not go forward with this over reach.
In addition to the Chesapeake Bay issue, the American Farm Bureau has begun the process of filing an amicus brief on the challenge by, among others, the Center for Food Safety to USDA's approval of the use of Roundup Ready sugar beets. A casual drive through the parts of the State where sugar beets are grown shows how important these genetically modified beets are to our producers. The cost to our producers to the loss of Roundup Ready beets would be significant and should enough producers choose to go out of beet production we could well lose our three sugar factories in Wyoming.
AFBF has also joined with the National Association of Homebuilders to file an amicus supporting a family in Idaho who were trying to construct a home on their lakeside property and were issued an Administrative Compliance Order (ACO) by EPA to return some alleged wetlands to their original condition. The landowners are challenging the ACO even though EPA is saying that the landowners could not challenge the ACO even though they felt the EPA had not adequately supported their contention that what the property owners did affected a wetland.
All of these cases affect how we in food production can operate now and into the future. AFBF will never have the resources the opponents have. However, it nice to know that the nation's largest agricultural organization is also working in the Judicial branch to help food producers.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President