(Following is the weekly newsletter from State Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, MO. The opinions expressed in the column are those of Rep. Luetkemeyer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wentzville Patch. —Ed.)
It was made quite clear to me during a recent visit to the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia that our farm communities are not happy with the flood of regulations that the current administration is trying to force down their throats. Whether I was visiting the hog pens or the cattle barns, folks were angry and wanted answers. One of the topics at the top of folks’ lists was the Guidance Document that the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released in April, 2011, that is supposed to clarify protection of waters under the Clean Water Act.
Put simply, if this Guidance Document goes through, it would mean a serious change in policy including allowing the EPA to regulate any or all waters found within a state, no matter how small or seemingly unconnected to a federal interest. The Guidance Document would allow the EPA and Corps to make many decisions that are traditionally made by states and localities, such as the regulation of ephemeral drainages, small and isolated depressional wetlands and roadside ditches. This would be a major federal overreach, and what I believe is a clear violation of the limits within the Clean Water Act.
As farmers and ranchers at the fair continued to raise their concerns, I pointed out that I have co-sponsored House Resolution 4965 that would stop this Guidance Document from being enforced. I am hopeful that this kind of support will prevent the Guidance Document from becoming reality.
There were, of course, many other issues that I discussed as I made my way through the fair. For example, on river issues, I made it clear that there is a significant disparity of funding for habitat restoration and land acquisition, and funding dedicated to operations and maintenance on the river. I explained that in an effort to change the focus of river discussions, I offered several amendments to the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that would have limited funding for fish and wildlife and habitat programs. I believe that the Corps of Engineers should stick to their original mission of protecting life and property along our rivers.
Another area of concern that led to a lot of discussion was the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would have changed the way that young workers can work in agriculture. After seeing all the young people at the fair and understanding the importance of keeping the next generation involved in our agricultural future, this issue remains a top priority for me. Because of an overwhelming amount of pushback from farmers, the agriculture industry and Members of Congress, the Labor Department has announced that it would not implement their proposed revisions. Earlier this summer, the House passed the Preserving America’s Family Farms Act to ensure that the current or future administration does not attempt to impose burdensome restrictions on the manner in which young people work on farms. I was proud to support this legislation.
Finally, I also had discussions with fair attendees about legislation sponsored by myself and fellow Missouri Congressman Sam Graves to amend the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 to make permanent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s exemptions relating to the transportation of agricultural commodities. Congressional intent demonstrated in previous sessions clearly allows the transportation of all farm supplies from any distribution point to a local farm retailer or to the ultimate consumer – in other words, from source to retail, source to farm and retail to farm.
Unfortunately, in 2009, FMCSA began to misinterpret Congressional intent and impose burdensome rules that were never meant to be imposed on the transportation and agriculture industries. FMCSA has only been allowing for the transportation of a single farm supply – anhydrous ammonia – from any distribution point to a local farm retailer or to the ultimate consumer. However, we were able to include a clarifying provision to solve this issue in the recently passed highway bill.
I am always impressed by the depth of understanding that our family farmers and ranchers have for exactly what is going on in Washington D.C. when it comes to issues affecting agriculture, and I would not expect anything less. The fair always provides with me with a real opportunity to hear from a variety of people about their issues facing our farm communities. It was great to hear everyone and I look forward to sharing their concerns when I return to Washington D.C., especially as Congress continues to consider the new Farm Bill this fall.
CONTACT US: As always, for those of you with Internet access, I encourage you to visit my website. For those without access to the Internet, I encourage you to call my offices in Columbia (573-443-1041), Washington, Mo. (636-239-2276), or Hannibal (573-231-1012) with your questions and concerns. If you want even greater access to what I am working on, please visit my YouTube site and my Facebook page.