Legislative Watch: One state cannot impair an entire industry; EPA wastewater rule criticized as rushed, costly; USDA announces $120 million for rural renewable energy program.

Eric Bohl

March 29, 2024

3 Min Read
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House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Penn.) is indicating he will introduce a draft farm bill in the near future and attempt to pass it through the House soon after. A major point of contention in farm bill discussions has been whether to include language limiting states’ ability to impose animal production methods on other states.

The catalyst for the issue has been California’s Proposition 12, which went into effect Jan. 1. The law places strict requirements on production of pork, eggs and veal if they are to be sold inside California. Opposition to Prop 12, as the measure has become known, has been led by hog producers who feel California should not be allowed to dictate production methods in other states.

In a recent interview with Carah Hart of Brownfield Ag News, Thompson said he has decided that the issue needs to be addressed in the farm bill, saying “we need a fix for that.” Thompson said, “It will keep us grounded in agriculture science for production methodology and quite frankly, we’ll make sure we continue to protect state’s rights in terms of practices within the states, but when it comes to state commerce, one state cannot impair an entire industry across the country.”

Thompson has not announced a firm timeline for introduction of the bill but has suggested it will occur in the late spring or early summer months. The new bill would update agricultural policy enacted in the 2018 farm bill, which has been extended through this September.

EPA wastewater rule criticized as rushed, costly

A new proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency is facing strong criticism by the agriculture industry. The Clean Water Act Effluent Limitations Guidelines would dramatically clamp down on nutrient levels in wastewater from meat and poultry processors.

In public comments responding to the proposal, processors strongly criticized the rushed timeline for the rule. Despite the rule being comprised of several hundred pages of highly technical mandates, EPA denied all requests to extend the 60-day public comment period, which ended Monday.

“Pushing forward at these speeds degrades the effectiveness of the rulemaking process,” the National Chicken Council said in its comments. “A rule that results in establishment closures, job losses, increased costs, and general anxiety about the future of effluent guidelines is one that should be considered in a more deliberate fashion.”

Processors also raised concerns about what they perceive as dramatically understated compliance costs in EPA’s proposal and its likelihood to affect small and mid-sized processors more harshly than large facilities. EPA is pushing forward with the rule in an effort to meet a self-imposed deadline of August 31, 2025, under a consent decree in a lawsuit filed by environmentalist organizations.

USDA announces $120 million for rural renewable energy program

As part of ongoing efforts to expand renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, USDA recently announced another $120 million of grants and loans for its Rural Energy for America Program. The 541 projects selected are spread across 44 states.

“USDA is committed to ensuring farmers, ranchers and small businesses are directly benefitting from both a clean energy economy and a strong U.S. supply chain,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “The investments announced today will expand access to renewable energy systems … while creating good-paying jobs and saving people money that they can then invest back into their businesses and communities.”

In its first three years, the Biden USDA has announced over $1.8 billion in REAP awards covering more than 6,000 projects. The awards are made directly to farms and small businesses for upgrades and energy efficiency improvements to their operations. Competitions for funds will be held quarterly through September 2024.

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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