Johanns questions EPA on feedlot flyovers

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Have you noticed any small planes circling your local feedyard lately? If so, it could be the federal government conducting surveillance for enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) wants an explanation.

Johanns, who served as Secretary of Agriculture in the Bush administration, sent a letter this week to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson questioning the reported use of aerial surveillance. Nebraska’s entire Congressional delegation co-signed the letter.

Johanns also spoke with AgriTalk Radio host Mike Adams on Wednesday to outline his concerns.

“It’s happening, and I’m trying to find out just what’s involved,” Johanns says, adding that EPA has been flying small airplanes out of Sioux City, Iowa or Omaha, Neb., to take aerial photos of feedlots in eastern Nebraska, to assess compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Johanns assumes the agency intends to use the photos for investigations and potentially enforcement actions, but says the EPA has provided no information on the operation to Congress.  In their letter to Administrator Jackson, the state’s Congressional delegation asks for an explanation of the statutory authority under which EPA is conducting the surveillance, along with the purpose of the flights, their frequency and their use in enforcement actions.

“My concerns are many,” Johanns says, noting that in Nebraska, the EPA and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality are cooperative agencies, but the evidence suggests the flights are purely an EPA operation. USDA, he notes, has used aerial photography to survey crop conditions and to verify compliance with conservation programs, but EPA has “little trust out in the country, and people will get fired up.” Congress, he adds, now is catching up with the program after the fact, and EPA is not an agency with a warm relationship with Congress.

EPA provided AgriTalk with the following response:

“For nearly a decade, EPA has used aerial over-flights to verify compliance with environmental laws in impaired watersheds. Aerial over-flights are a cost-effective tool that helps the Agency and our state partners minimize costs and reduce the number of on-site inspections across the country as the Agency focuses on areas of the greatest concern. For animal feeding operations, EPA uses over-flights, state records and other publicly available sources of information to identify discharges of pollution. In no case has EPA taken an enforcement action solely on the basis of these over-flights. EPA and other state and federal agencies also use aircraft for responding to emergencies such as chemical releases or to assess environmental disasters.”

Read the letter from the Nebraska Congressional delegation to EPA administrator Jackson.

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Saint Louis  |  May, 31, 2012 at 08:40 AM

Since when did every agency have to account for every action to every Congressional member trying to interfere with their actions? How much work do you think the government would get done? Or is that the purpose? Prevent the government from working, so that CAFOs and large feedlots can pollute the environment? Perhaps Nebraskans should worry more about the quality of their water and life and less about placating rich agribusiness interests. And perhaps they should also stop pandering to paranoid Tea Party types.

g digiuseppe    
arkansas  |  May, 31, 2012 at 09:01 AM

The letter link is broken

Wheeler Co, NE  |  May, 31, 2012 at 09:06 AM

Perhaps, Shelley, you should visit rural Nebraska, see how hard we work to put food on our table, and others of the world, are not rich by any means except maybe to a 3rd world existence, and we do worry about clean water, way of life, and too much government interference.

May, 31, 2012 at 09:23 AM

Johanns protecting BIG AG over human and animal health again $$$, just like he did with mad cow disease, and we’re still having to deal with that. after that cover-up, and mad cow follies there from, I don’t see how the man can get elected to anything. ...

MO  |  May, 31, 2012 at 09:31 AM

Since every government agency is accountable to the citizens, Shelley. I think it is reasonable for the congressman to question the activities of the EPA and expect an accounting of its behavior. This government organization has a history of engaging in activities that impact the citizens in a negative manner and has been allowed a free reign as of late. It’s not Tea Party paranoia, its transparency. Something you advocate for in as much as it serves your purpose. Perhaps with the conspicuous consumption of energy resources within the urban setting in order to cool your dwelling in mid-80 degree weather and allow you to sport around your superfluous, electronic devices we should begin fly-overs in St. Louis to impose consumption quotas and penalize those who increase demand for non-essential activities? I dare say that the pollution and environmental degradation of the urban landscape is far greater than St. Louis would want to admit to. I’ve seen what comes out of that metropolitan area. It’s not the big, evil agribusiness solely that the congressman worries about. It is the rest of the agricultural population that is impacted by the EPA activity and given its past they have every right to demand an accounting.

John Detwiler    
May, 31, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Dave, I wonder what Shelly would say if the flew over her house and decided that it was releasing to much heat into the air, and she needed to add more insulation. This is just as logical as the EPA's other excessive mandates. Did you notice her scathing comment About the Tea Party? Obviously she one of those leftists who think that everything that the government does is all right. And as you said, the government should be accountable to its citizens in every matter.

Lewis Harris    
Pittsburg  |  May, 31, 2012 at 09:38 AM

Shelly, the agencies are responsible to the people of the USA through Congress. Oversight need not be interference - it is their responsibility. Many citizens do not trust Big Government, especially the EPA. That agency needs to have its wings clipped. The by-word regarding any gov't agency should be, "are they helping or hurting us"? We must no longer let them just do things because they think they can. As a matter of fact, the Congress should be telling them how to do their job - not letting EPA just dream up ways to interfere in american life.

Dr. R    
Seattle  |  May, 31, 2012 at 10:23 AM

This is where the term "special interest" comes from. Johanns is putting the lobbyst-dollar ahead of the concern for the health, welfare and safety of ALL the people. And this is exactly why our country is over-run with toxins, polluted waterways (of which 100% of navigatable waterways are polluted), cancer, ADD/ADHD, obesity (from GMO corn products) and general auto-immune diseases. Because of theives like Johanns who steal the health of the citizens and trade it for lobby-dollars. Before the nay-sayers start let's be clear: I work in ag, I am a consultant into varied ag venues that DO include beef feedlots. I know, first hand, the toxic pollution source they are. I know, first hand, how the owners, managers and workers, (workers becasue they are blackmailed with their jobs on the line) circumvent every law, regulation and guidleline concerning environmental impact and site-source pollution, how every feedlot ignores science and human decency with chemical, antibiotic and hormone abuse. And, as a researcher in cancer, I also know the tragic result of that ignorance. This is a wakeup to the voters: vote Johanns OUT.

Nebraska  |  May, 31, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Well, Dr. R, Sen. Johanns is a NEBRASKA senator, meaning that he represents the citizens of our great state. The majority of us, myself included are employed in agricultural entities. So I'm glad he represents our interests. These businesses supply the SAFEST healthiest food in the world. I myself am a beef rancher and live less than a mile from a large feedlot run by our neighbors. They have made the investment and done the work to ensure their feedlot complies completely with EPA regulations. True, they aren't always happy about it, but I'm sure you have portions of your job that are less than pleasant. Not every feedlot is run by reputable folks, and I agree that lawbreakers and people who abuse livestock deserve to be brought to justice. Please take the time to understand that those who raise cattle feed the same beef to their families that feeds the rest of the United States, so we strive to make it as safe and healthy as possible. Feel free to visit my blog or tweet me @Ellie_nebeefgal if you want to chat more.

mo  |  May, 31, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Obesity is not the result of GMO corn, it is the result of people like those of us posting sitting on our rumps in front of computers posting responses to each other. Get with the research doctor. Our inactivity and affluent lifestyle is increasing our waistband with the help of a plentiful, dare I say bountiful, food source. Ag consultant AND CA researcher? Odd, how does one find the time to juggle CA research and a consulting business... All those maladies laid at the feet of agribusiness? Yeah, there is no data to support such a broad claim. There is data supporting the urban contribution to diseases and psychological maladies, not all of them but a fair, great many.

Arkansas City, KS  |  May, 31, 2012 at 11:27 AM

Rich and Farmer and Rancher do not go together in my world. Granted there may be a handfull of wealthy farmers out there, but I bet they worked day and night to get there. We work everyday from daylight to sun down taking care of cattle, it is our passion and our pride that keeps us going not the dollar. WE could easily go get jobs and make more money, but we love the country and love our animals. I hope to make a living, but never expect to get rich. Unless I win the lottery someday. People do not realize what a gamble raising animals and crops is, we depend on the weather and mother nature and she can be a witch sometimes. God Bless all those who work for the love and pride of being an American Farmer/ Rancher. Without them we would be very hungry.

TEXAS  |  June, 01, 2012 at 03:50 PM

As a rancher, I agree with most of the comments on this epa topic. Two posts, by shelley and anonymous, are politically motivated, off topic, ignorant of our system of gov't, & etc. Why don't you two RESEARCH the topic, THOUROUGHLY. Then make your posts so you don't make fools of yourself. You BOTH should be embarassed. I'm embarassed for you.

USA  |  May, 31, 2012 at 02:54 PM

Shelley, What communal property right do you have in a feedlot, any feedlot? Al Armendariz admitted that the policy of the EPA is that of crucifiers. They are crucifiers of people with God-given, and thereby fundamental, rights in private property in which you have no interest whatsoever. After you buy it in the grocery store then you can have your say about the product you then own and not before. But if you are a vegan, again, you have no interest whatsoever. It is time to end the communization of private property rights in the US before we are reduced to the national poverty level our enemies wish for us. Abolish the EPA Crucifiers altogether and begin the end to communism in the US.

Dallas, Texas  |  June, 01, 2012 at 09:09 AM

need to abolish the EPA, Big Government can't accomplish anything anyways except for interfere in our ability to produce energy and food for Americans so what good are they? perhaps if "Goernment" focused a little more on passing a budget and reducing spending as much as the EPA focuses on making Ameican's lives miserable this would be a great place to "live" again. Liberals, no need to respond, I already know your position, just don't know how you are going to feed yourself one day. Good luck with that.

farmer mel    
NE.  |  June, 03, 2012 at 11:05 PM

EPA needs to see where the EQIP dollars went and see to it thatthe clean water act is enforced Sen Johansw stop making political points.


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