U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, questioned witnesses in a hearing about the impact of federal environmental regulations and policies on American farming and ranching communities. Witnesses included Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau; Niels Hansen Secretary and Treasurer of the Public Lands Council and member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; Dr. Howard Hill. President of the National Pork Producers Council, Michael Scuse, Secretary of Agriculture of the State of Delaware; and Donn Teske, Vice President of the National Farmers Union.
Inhofe: The fact that we have all of these regulations out there is pretty outrageous. Mr. Duvall, you mentioned in your opening statement, you talked about the WOTUS bill … In my area of Oklahoma—in western Oklahoma— it’s very arid. And those people, out there of all the regulations that were put in by the previous administration, that was the number one regulation and that ended up being the number one regulation also from the American Farm Bureau and other organizations. So, I would just ask you, if there’s anything that you didn’t say about that particular regulation that would either be costly—how it would be costly—or inconvenient and have a negative effect?
Duvall: Yes sir, if you start looking at some of the conservation practices that we put on the ground to protect our soil and water on our farms, and you start transitioning land form one use to the other. Not commercial to agricultural, but one agricultural practice to another, there are unbelievable permitting procedures that certain areas of the country—or the country—has to go through to be able to do that.
Inhofe: Are you familiar with the panhandle of Oklahoma?
Duvall: Not really, I’m coming for the panhandle of Oklahoma, though.
Inhofe: That was where their concern was. After a rain, that could all of a sudden be considered a wetland.
Duvall: Yes sir.
Inhofe: And, all of a sudden, you lose the state jurisdiction and the federal jurisdiction takes over. Is that one of the concerns—do you see it consistently around the country?
Duvall: I see it consistently and also I see a variance of determination between agencies of what really is a wetland and what’s not.
Inhofe: That’s exactly right.
Duvall: And it’s unclear to farmers how they can perceive what their land really is.
Inhofe also questioned Niels Hansen about government overreach, specifically related to landowners.