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Hillsdale Daily News: Empowering Michigan farmers to succeed

June 24, 2015
Opinion Editorial

I come home to Michigan every weekend for many reasons. My wife, my farm, and my truck are all here.

It's also allows me the privilege of directly listening to your common sense concerns and solutions so I can effectively be your voice in Congress.

From roundtables to coffee hours to town hall meetings, I frequently hear about the growing regulatory burden imposed by Washington bureaucrats who have little to no knowledge about what's best for our communities.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a prime example.

Recently, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers announced its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, in direct contradiction to legislative action already taken by the House to stop it.

The rule expands the Clean Water Act to give the federal government authority to regulate nearly all bodies of water in the United States, including waters that are privately owned or under a state's jurisdiction.

Under the WOTUS rule, everything from backyard ponds to mud puddles are classified as "navigable water" and subjected to the same regulations as lakes and oceans.

It hurts our economy, threatens individual property rights, and interferes with a farmer's ability to grow their crops and raise their livestock. It's a stunning power grab.

Unfortunately, the WOTUS rule is only the latest example of the EPA bogging farmers down in unnecessary red tape.

That's why I introduced the Flexibility to Farm Act, which protects farmers from EPA overregulation and restores common sense to the rule-making process.

The legislation would allow individual states to opt-out of certain EPA regulations if the state's governor finds them to be excessively burdensome to the farming community.

While we still need reasonable policies to provide for a healthy economy and protect our nation's waters, we don't need a vast expansion of federal power to do it. Allowing more input from state and local leaders-those who know our communities best-will help achieve a balanced approach so farmers can successfully run their farms and create jobs.

I'm proud the Flexibility to Farm Act has the support of the Michigan Farm Bureau and farmers across the district.

"Giving states the ability to review new federal-level environmental regulation and estimate their impact on farmers just makes common sense," said Jennifer Lewis, a farmer from Hillsdale County and member of Michigan Farm Bureau Board of Directors. "Farmers rely on clean natural resources — air, water and soil. We can't feed a growing world without them."

Brian Preston, a farmer from Branch County, echoed that sentiment. "Farmers across the country work in a variety of different environments, each with unique needs and challenges. Rule-makers in Washington should listen to the states about their concerns and how proposed new regulations would affect their area," he said.

Farmers should be spending their time raising animals, harvesting crops, and growing their business. When the EPA begins targeting mud puddles for regulation, it's clear the agency is wading into territory that goes far beyond responsible environmental protection and is standing in the way of farmers doing what they do best.

The EPA doesn't need more power. Michigan farmers like Jennifer and Brian do.

This op-ed was originally published in the June 23 edition of the Hillsdale Daily News and the Daily Reporter.