Senate Republicans Seek to Remake Farm Regulations in Mega-Bill

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By Tiffany Stecker

Republicans are hoping to pass a package of bills intended to reduce regulatory burdens to farmers and ranchers, though many of the provisions won’t pass muster with Democrats.

The draft Agriculture Creates Real Employment (ACRE) Act, which has yet to be introduced in the Senate, would combine eight existing bills into one.

These include a measure to exempt farms from needing to report air pollution emissions and a long-sought reprieve of requirements to obtain Clean Water Act permits to spray pesticides over water.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding a March 14 hearing on the measure.

Farms’ Emissions

One of the bills in the package, S.2421, would exempt farms from reporting air emissions, despite a recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision that could force animal-raising to start reporting the release of hazardous air pollution substances. The court has yet to issue its mandate, which would enforce the decision.

Republicans and farm-state Democrats have pushed for the pesticide spraying bill (S.340), which would overturn a 2009 appeals court decision that requires the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce permitting for farmers and pest control workers dispersing pesticides on or near bodies of water.

The pesticide spraying bill has received support from some Democrats—including Environment and Public Works ranking member, Sen. Tom Carper (Del.)—but never made it through the Senate because of holds from Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.) and former Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.).

Seven of the eight bills were introduced by Republicans, and one comes from Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

Six of the eight bills have bipartisan support, environment committee Republican spokesman Mike Danylak told Bloomberg Environment.

Committee Democrats weren’t immediately available for comment.

Other Bills

The individual bills included in the draft legislation:
• S. 2421 would exempt animal farms from reporting air pollution under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act;
• S. 1206 would allow certain sea urchins and sea cucumber gatherers to make exports without needing licenses from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;
• S. 478 would loosen baiting restrictions for migratory birds;
• S. 340 would allow farmers and mosquito control officials to spray pesticides over water without needing a Clean Water Act permit;
• S. 1343, from the 113th Congress, would prohibit the EPA from publicly disclosing certain information on livestock operators’ compliance with the Clean Water Act;
• H.R. 5961, from the 112th Congress, would prevent the EPA from conducting aerial surveillance to enforce environmental laws;
• S. 219 would allow fish farmers to control double-crested cormorant birds; and
• S. 1207 would loosen some requirements of the EPA’s oil-spill prevention program on farms.

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