Hoeven Working to Prevent Regulatory Uncertainty for Ag Producers, Ensure Farm Bill Works as Intended

Senator Outlines Efforts to Rescind Waters of the U.S. and OSHA Anhydrous Ammonia Rule, Use Yield Estimates from State FSA to Calculate ARC Payments

WEST FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today held a roundtable with North Dakota agriculture producers, where he outlined his efforts to provide regulatory and legal certainty for farmers and ranchers. Hoeven has been working as a member of the Senate Agriculture and Appropriations Committees to prevent burdensome federal regulations that undermine agriculture producers’ operations, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the U.S. rule and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) fertilizer regulations. The senator has also been pressing officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure that the Farm Bill is working as Congress intended, especially in light of low commodity prices.

“Our farmers and ranchers provide a critical service to our nation,” Hoeven said. “Federal regulations should not impair our farmers’ work, which increases costs for producers and consumers while also threatening the future of our family farms. Rather, the federal government should ensure our programs are supporting farmers and ranchers, helping them to weather the difficult times and low prices, and we are working to do just that.”

• Waters of the U.S. – Last month, Hoeven continued his efforts to repeal the EPA Waters of the U.S. rule, the number one regulatory threat for farmers and ranchers. Hoeven has worked on several fronts to stop the regulation, including blocking funding for implementing the rule through the annual appropriations process, eliminating the rule through standalone legislation and under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

Further, the senator successfully included a provision in the year-end funding legislation to prevent the EPA from reinstating the Waters of the U.S. Interpretive Rule. This enabled farmers and ranchers to operate during Fiscal Year 2016 under the Clean Water Act’s exemption for normal agricultural activities, like plowing, seeding and minor drainage.

• OSHA Anhydrous Ammonia Rule – Last year, OSHA planned to impose new restrictions on fertilizer sales and force agriculture retail facilities to comply with the same chemical storage requirements as a wholesale facility, impacting approximately 3,800 retailers nationwide. The rule would have caused many retailers to stop selling to farmers at rural locations and threatened to limit the supply of anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen fertilizer that is critically important to producers. The N.D. Department of Agriculture estimated that as a result of OSHA’s policy change, 275 North Dakota agriculture retail facilities would be subject to these more stringent storage regulations and that the resulting cost of compliance could force nearly 90 of them to stop selling anhydrous ammonia.

In response, Hoeven worked to include language in the year-end legislation that prevents OSHA from implementing the rule in Fiscal Year 2016. This gives retailers and farmers a voice in the decision before the agency can implement the new rule. The senator built on this effort last week by calling on Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor, to rescind the proposed restrictions, engage local stakeholders through the formal rule-making process and respond to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Freedom of Information Act requests.

• ARC County Payments – Due to the USDA current method of calculating payments under the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program, no payments were made to corn farmers in LaMoure and Logan counties, and inadequate payments were made to farmers in Ransom and Steele counties for the 2014 crop year. Hoeven continues pressing officials at the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to use yield estimates submitted by the North Dakota state FSA office to determine county ARC payments in counties for which there were no National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data.

At the same time, the senator is working as a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee to ensure this flexibility is in place for the ARC program in future years to prevent similar issues.