If you asked someone which government agency has the greatest impact on agriculture the answer would probably be USDA. Makes sense right? After all, it is called the United States Department of Agriculture for a reason. No doubt most ag producers have some dealings with USDA especially in times like this when needed government assistance comes through that agency. However, the agency that probably has the most impact on agriculture is EPA.
The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970. It was needed then and no doubt it is needed now. Our environment does need protection. However today many farmers and ranchers feel they need protection from EPA itself. An attorney who helped create EPA has often told me this wasn’t what they had in mind especially when it comes to ag issues. Somewhere along the way agriculture and EPA developed an adversarial relationship. Often it seems the agency is more intent on telling producers what they can’t do rather than help them with what they can do. On occasion, the two do find themselves on the same side of an issue such as the new Waters of the US rule but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. After all, it was a controversial rule from EPA in the first place that agriculture is still trying to get changed. Ask the biofuels industry about its experience with EPA. From not meeting deadlines to allowing seemingly unjustified waivers to the Renewable Fuels Standard, the EPA has practically cut the legs out from under the industry. To make it worse, the President of the United States, allows the EPA administrator to do so while publicly pledging his support for biofuels. That’s not just a jab at President Trump because it happened under President Obama as well.
Like most things today the agency has become very politicized seemingly more about getting votes than following the law. Now EPA has another ag battle on its hands. When the Ninth Circuit Court recently decertified 3 Dicamba products it left many soybean and cotton growers that had already used or purchased those products in a tough spot in an already tough year. As states looked to EPA for guidance, growers were left with questions and uncertainty. Even when EPA did finally announce they would allow existing stocks to be used it left more uncertainty by also decertifying those products at the same time. Hopefully, this situation will be resolved soon but had EPA quickly appealed the court decision and sought a stay perhaps it could have saved a lot of confusion and avoided potential problems this growing season. Of course they could have ignored the court decision altogether which seems to be what they are doing with the court ruling that said EPA was wrong in their granting of RFS exemptions. More and more it seems USDA has become the government agency that gives out money and EPA is the one that takes it away which wasn’t the original intent for either one.