Impossible to understand rules

What if everyone in agriculture was an outlaw? Suppose you are an agriculture producer and you had to continually look over your shoulder to see if the law was coming to get you? Most U.S. citizens wouldn’t want to live like that and if they did, the way they interact with people would change. So, what about agriculture?With the advent of a number of rules, there is a good chance that many in agriculture will be unknowingly breaking the law. On Jan. 1, 2018 the Worker Protection Standards went into effect for anyone applying pesticides. Farm Bureau members who attended the 2017 Legislative Meeting heard from Jeff Edwards with the Extension Service about what is necessary to comply with the rules. This was before any clear information about what is necessary to comply with the rules was truly available. The book for this was several hundred pages long and to understand the requirements was not easy.

In fact, people who work in this field could not understand the rules so someone who is trying to raise a crop and keep up on all that is necessary to get crops planted, grown and in the bin would be hard pressed to understand the standards. The worst part is that many of the rules don’t make any sense from a worker protection standpoint. Of course, if you were a rabid environmentalist who had been in power at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and one of your goals was to try and make it impossible to use pesticides, then perhaps they do make sense.

Many have heard about the judge’s decision to invalidate the EPA’s rule allowing agriculture to avoid Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act coverage or CERCLA. If you’ve not heard about this, you probably have heard about Superfund sites. This is what CERCLA was intended to address but the judge said it also applies to agriculture operations. This one is so “out there” that EPA doesn’t even know how to assess an agricultural operation to see if they should be covered under CERCLA. If the judge hadn’t just granted another 90-day stay of the implementation of this program, people with livestock could find themselves in violation of CERCLA. I know what most folks in agriculture are thinking…What if I don’t do anything – just try and keep below the radar on this? Well, like with the Worker Protection Standards you may be fine until someone reports you.

How about your spill prevention plan? Remember that one? Let’s not forget about the animal health requirements you need to comply with for administering certain health products.

When you establish rules that cannot be understood, are near impossible to comply with or make so many rules that an agricultural producer cannot even hope to know them and comply with all of them, then you create an entire segment of the economy that breaks the laws and become outlaws. Their only viable strategy then is to hope the government doesn’t find out. This may not be a very good strategy, but when rules are created that make no sense it’s probably the only one left.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President

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