Written by Rep. Tim Huelskamp Tuesday, 29 November 2011 16:04
Breaking federal law for allowing your child to work on the family farm? If the Department of Labor’s latest proposal takes effect, such will be the outcome.
Being fined nearly six figures for allowing your teenage son to sell rabbits to the local pet store? A Missouri family learned about that existing USDA regulation the hard way. One could only hope these stories of proposed or actual overregulation were fiction.
Unfortunately, they are as real as can be. These stories would be laughable if the consequences were not so serious. Like several other regulations that hold back the profitability of agriculture, “rules” like these—even rumored ones—have the intended or unintended consequence of hampering the continuity of the family farm.
When regulation is used to discourage or prevent young people from learning the science and art of agriculture, Washington threatens the existence and future of rural America.
When we heard that the farm bill was going to be taken up by the Super Committee, I introduced legislation to stop the overregulation that is killing the family farm. Under normal circumstances, it would have been ideal to consider this when the Agriculture Committee—on which I serve—took up the next farm bill.
Entitled the “Freeing Agriculture to Reap More” (FARM) Act, it would address about a dozen regulations that Kansans have told me are undermining and destroying the continuity and profitability of agriculture.
In addition to reversing the two previously mentioned regulations that affect future farmers and ranchers, the FARM Act also deals with regulations that hurt or may hurt those who are in business today.
Among other things, the FARM Act will prevent regulation of farm dust; prohibit the redefinition of “navigable waters;” prevent the EPA from imposing livestock emissions taxes; allow farmers to operate tractors without a CDL; and deny funding for the White House Rural Council.
Ideally, this legislation would serve as a “regulatory title” for the farm bill. Given the economic impact of regulation, it merits its own title amid others like trade, research, conservation, or farm credit.
When it looks like direct payments are going away, the least Congress can do is alleviate the crushing regulation that costs our farmers and ranchers money they could otherwise use to create jobs.
Now that the Super Committee has (unsurprisingly) failed to come up with $1.2 trillion of recommended cuts—as it was charged to do as a condition of the debt limit increase—the Agriculture Committee will be able to come up with its own farm bill.
When the debate happens, I hope my colleagues will give due consideration to the FARM Act. It may be an uphill battle, given that I am only one of about a dozen farmers in the House, but nevertheless I will push hard for a regulatory title like the FARM Act in the farm bill.
No more families should fall victim to the “bureaucratic and regulatory wisdom” that Washington frequently and unnecessarily imposes on American agriculture.
Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) represents the First District in the U.S. House of Representatives.