When I talk to farmers and ranchers who run small operations in my congressional district in Arkansas, they consistently tell me how regulations from Washington hurt their bottom line. When I ask them which agency seems to impose the most oppressive regulations, I always get the same answer: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In 2003, the EPA quietly passed a rule requiring farmers and ranchers to prepare a spill containment plan for oil products stored on their property. The program, commonly referred to as the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) program, requires oil storage facilities with a capacity of more than 1,320 gallons to make costly infrastructure improvements to reduce the possibility of oil spills. The regulations require farmers to construct a containment facility such as a dike or a basin. These mandated infrastructure improvements – along with required inspection and certification by a specially licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) will cost many farmers tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes compliance costs reach higher than $60,000 for some farmers in my district.
To combat this intrusive and unrealistic regulation, I have introduced the Farmers Undertake Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act. The FUELS Act is simple; it revises the SPCC regulations to be reflective of a producer’s spill risk and financial resources. The exemption level would be adjusted upward from an unworkable 1,320 gallons of oil storage to an amount that would protect small farms: 10,000 gallons. The proposal would also place a greater degree of responsibility on farmers and ranchers to self-certify compliance if their oil storage facilities exceed the exemption level. Although the House of Representatives passed the FUELS Act in 2012 without a single dissenting vote, the bill stalled in the Senate. I look forward to renewing efforts to pass this bipartisan bill before the EPA imposes the SPCC rules, which is set for the beginning of the new fiscal year in October.
The SPCC program dates back to 1973, shortly after the Clean Water Act was signed into law. In the last decade the rule has strictly come down on agriculture and been amended, delayed and extended dozens of times. The Obama administration updated the rule in 2009 to make the SPCC program more burdensome than ever before – applying to nearly all farms, and lifting a 2006 rule that suspended compliance requirements for small farms with oil storage of 10,000 gallons or less. It applied to crop oil, vegetable oil, animal fat and even milk.
The FUELS Act will provide much needed regulatory relief and save farm families thousands of dollars they can use to invest in their businesses. The University of Arkansas conducted a study that concluded the FUELS Act could save up to $240 million in Arkansas alone. For the entire country, it could save farmers and ranchers up to $3.36 billion. By nature of occupation, family farmers are already careful stewards of the land and water. No one has more at stake to protect the environment than those who derive their livelihood from working the land. When Washington bureaucrats, many of whom have never set foot on a farm, decide to enact new regulations, they should not do so without talking to the best stewards of our land - the farmer.
Source: Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.)
Congressman Rick Crawford represents Arkansas’s First Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Crawford serves on the Agriculture Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. On the Agriculture Committee, Crawford is Chairman of the Livestock, Rural Development and Credit Subcommittee. Congressman Crawford and his wife Stacy live in Jonesboro with their two children.