EPA Deregulations: Good or bad for the environment, farmers?

The Bush Administration is pushing to pass a set of rules that could relax EPA restrictions on several industries including agriculture and environmental groups, and industry leaders are adamantly expressing their thoughts on this issue.

Environmental advocates say passage of this proposal could eliminate important safeguards that protect the environment from harmful pollution of several industries including agriculture.

Industry leaders say that the proposals would free business from unnecessary government involvement.

There are more than 170 livestock farms in Ohio, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture is reviewing applications from companies that want to build 18 more livestock farms.

Currently, farms are required to apply for permits with the EPA if they’re going to release anything into nearby steams. If the proposal passes, farms will no longer need a permit as long as they file plans that indicate what they’re doing. They also won’t need to report hazardous air pollutants released from animal waste. However, according to environmental groups this can actually cause more pollution and problems for the farms itself as well as the environment.

“Many farms store millions of gallons of liquefied manure in lagoons, which can leak or overflow into streams.” said Eric Schaeffer, director of Washington D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project. “If the farms don’t have to obtain permits and tell the state how they are doing, officials will have a difficult time punishing farms that do pollute streams.”

The proposal would also require power companies to install scrubbers and pollution filters on coal-fired power plants that are being renovated or repaired based on a plant’s hourly pollution rate instead of its annual production. These coal-fueled generators provide 89 percent of Ohio’s electricity.

“The plan would allow a refurbished plant to increase its pollution without adding scrubbers,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “A plant operating more hours at the old hourly rate could increase emissions of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, by hundreds if not thousands of tons a year.”

Others believe these deregulations will help.

“Repairs that help a plant burn coal more efficiently could actually help lower its annual and hourly pollution emissions,” said John McManus, vice president of environmental services for American Electric Power. “The number of hours a plant operates doesn’t automatically increase after repairs.”

An EPA spokesperson said that the farm-rule changes would protect the environment and public health.

Do you think the passage of these proposals will hurt the environment? Or do you think they will minimize unnecessary government involvement? Please comment below.

Barack Obama is the next president: What does this mean for rural America?

Barack Obama has been elected president and rural America has spoken. Agricultural groups have congratulated the president-elect on his win and already laid out suggestions for his agricultural plan.

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman released a statement congratulating President-elect Obama and his thoughts regarding his campaign.

“Farmers and ranchers, like all Americans, have a list of issues that they expect the administration and Congress will address,” said Stallman.

He said the Farm Bureau’s issues include the economy, energy, immigration, trade, implementation of the Farm Bill and many others.

“We know there are many points of view on these issues, but we also know that our elected leaders have one thing in common: Each person elected to office ran for office to improve this country. We look forward to working with the new administration and Congress to create those opportunities that will improve agriculture and rural America,” said Stallman.

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Tom Buis listed other challenges that face rural America.

“Agriculture faces many problems, including a worldwide recession that is hurting commodity prices, the need for regulatory reform that includes greater regulation of speculators in commodity futures market and more development of biofuels and green energy sources that will bring economic development to farms and rural areas,” said Buis.

Buis said the country is going to have a president who does want to work with rural America on these issues. And because Obama supported the Farm Bill, he said he believes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will implement the new law in the way intended by Congress.

Buis also said he’s relying on other farm groups “to organize an agricultural summit to look at ways to counter falling farm income.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Andy Groseta laid out his own concerns.

“In the coming years, ranchers, farmers and rural Americans will be significantly impacted by tax policies, environmental regulations, international trade, renewable fuel subsidies, food safety and nutrition,” Groseta said. “NCBA worked closely with the Obama campaign on each of these concerns, and we have been assured a seat at the table when decisions are made regarding these and other issues of importance to America’s cattlemen and women.”

The National Corn Growers Association sent a similar message congratulating President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and addressing its issues.

“We have appreciated Sen. Obama’s leadership on issues ranging from strong safety-net programs within the Farm Bill to the promotion of corn-based ethanol as an important source of domestic energy,” said NCGA President Bob Dickey.

NCGA’s main concerns are renewable fuels, trade and the implementation of the Farm Bill.

It seems that Obama will have a lot of different organizations to work with to help improve rural America. Which issues do you believe are the most important for America’s farmers? Please comment below.

Election 2008: Who will be the next president?

It’s crunch time with only one day until the election, and both candidates have been spending significant time in crucial battleground states.

In the 10 days from Oct. 18-28, John McCain, Barack Obama and their running mates have been to the key swing states more than once. The top three states visited were Pennsylvania (10 visits), Florida (10) and Ohio (7). Followed by Colorado with six visits and North Carolina and Virginia with five visits. States with four visits or less were Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Indiana and Iowa.

According to RealClearPoltics.com, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana and Montana are the top five states still up for grabs. Ohio, which has voted Republican in the past two presidential elections and is widely considered the most vital battleground state, is leaning toward Obama.

In the most recent Gallup Poll (Oct. 23-26), voters were asked, “Regardless of whom you support, and trying to be as objective as possible, who do you think will win the presidential election in November?” Seven in 10 Americans expect Obama to win. Since June, the percentage of those who said they think Obama will win has grown from 42 percent to 51 percent. Forty-nine percent of McCain supporters say that Obama will win as well. And as expected, 94 percent of Obama supporters think Obama will win. (For more information on the Gallup Polls, please visit www.gallup.com.)

With three of the battleground states being Ohio, Missouri and Indiana, the rural vote may just be more important this year than any other year. Along with those states and Iowa, the agriculture impact may determine who wins the election.

The economic impact among these battleground states alone is vast. For example, the market value of agriculture production for Iowa is $12.3 billion, which ranks third in the U.S. The market value for Ohio is $4.3 billion. One in 6 people in Ohio have an agriculture-related job, which includes wholesaling and retailing, farm production and marketing and processing. Ohio has 75,700 farms, averaging 186 acres in size per farm.

Over 90 percent of Iowa’s land is devoted to agriculture. It has 88,400 farms, the average farm size is 356 acres and Iowa agriculture employs 500,000 people.

Agriculture is more than just farming. It is a gigantic industry that includes a variety of businesses such as manufacturers, retailers, dealers and service providers. The four states mentioned above are vital to the nation’s agriculture industry.

Regardless of who you support and trying to be as objective as possible, who do you think will win the presidential election in November? Election day is tomorrow. Don’t forget to be an educated voter.