The National Cattlemen's Beef Association welcomes you to "Beltway Beef." Initiated in 1898, NCBA is the oldest and largest national marketing organization and trade association dedicated solely to U.S. cattlemen and women. With offices in Washington, D.C., and Denver, NCBA is a producer driven organization representing the largest segment of the nation's food and fiber industry. "Beltway Beef" was created to serve as a sounding board for the U.S. beef industry. Decisions are made in Washington, D.C., directly impacting the cattle business. Our goal is to get the word out and we need your help. We encourage you to comment on the postings, ask questions and share with your friends. Posts on "Beltway Beef" are produced by NCBA staff and invited guests. Feel free to contact the bloggers at cadams@beef.org or snewsome@beef.org.

April 11, 2014

No Bull: EPA Aggression Threatens Livestock Producers


By Rep. Sam Graves
 
In North Missouri, many people are farmers, ranchers, and livestock producers. Here, people rely on their land for their livelihood, and for recreation.  But what there’s a lot of are property owners, and the same is true all around the country. Americans have a lot of pride in owning and maintaining their land, and many pieces of land go back generations as part of families, much like where I call home – Tarkio, MO.

Recently, reports from Washington indicated an attempt to undercut property owners and those who depend on their land to earn their living. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led by Administrator Gina McCarthy, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, released a new proposed rule to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposal would make changes to the meaning of “waters of the United States.”

Prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions imposed limits on the extent of federal CWA authority; however, the EPA is trying to bypass Congress to get a stronger foothold on your property.

For example, the EPA traditionally holds jurisdiction over waters that are “navigable.”  Now, the EPA claims a vastly expanded jurisdiction over broad categories of waters, which could include ponds or streams on our farmland. Put simply, EPA regulators will use their “best professional judgment” in an attempt to gain access to our country’s farmland. Their end game is to regulate all water sources under the guise of the CWA, an intrusion which will only add more unwanted bureaucracy to agriculture.

In other words, the EPA intends to employ slight-of-hand and misdirection to give itself greater control over your backyard. The pond, stream, ditch, gully, and dried up river bed that hasn’t seen water in 100 years? Yes, you guessed it – the federal government can and will regulate them if the EPA has its way.

To add insult to injury, the EPA asserts that it is not expanding any authority.  Rather, it is merely clarifying terms that cattlemen, livestock producers, and farmers get so confused over.  In other words, the EPA believes it has had authority over the puddles and ditches in your backyard for decades.

In reality, what we are looking at is a new federal permitting scheme that employs arbitrary, ambiguous, and confusing terms to expand the size and scope of the EPA’s authority.   This act of federal aggression and abuse is a direct assault on private property rights – a land grab that will result in fewer jobs, multiple permits, higher costs, lengthy litigation, and more delay and disruption for businesses.

What it means to a property owner: if you are spraying pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides anywhere in the vicinity of a natural farm pond, you need a permit. If you use prescribed burning and residue from the fires can land on that farm pond, you need a different permit. If you cut hay near that pond and do not follow the standard to the letter, you could need a permit. And if you graze cattle near the pond, you could need a permit.  In effect, you will have less time and resources to manage your operation and prepare for drought because you will be busy filling out all the new permits required by EPA.

The President has made clear that his Administration will go to any length to enact his environmental agenda. It’s no surprise, then, that faulty studies and cherry-picked science has been used to back up the EPA’s new rule.

Too much is at risk. My home state of Missouri, for example, contains over 51,000 beef producers and over 2,000,000 head of cattle alone. This industry plays a huge role in the economic viability of the Heartland, providing revenue and jobs for our rural communities and providing food for the entire country. Without a doubt, the EPA’s new rule would stifle this economic activity, reduce employment, and threaten producers.
It’s not just agriculture that the EPA has in its crosshairs, but our economy and workforce at large; any industry that relies on land use, such as home builders, manufacturers, and municipalities around the country will fall victim to the mandates of Washington bureaucrats.  In bypassing Congress and without the consent of the governed, the EPA’s egregious agenda is poised to strike at the heart of economic activity and job growth. 

This Administration’s aggressive expansion of federal authority under the CWA has no place in your backyard, on your farm, in your fields, and not in Missouri. The President and the EPA need to put politics aside, and to level with the American people. The EPA’s dishonest and misleading assault on jobs and property owners must be taken off the table.

Beltway Beef Commentary: Trans Pacific Partnership

Bob McCan, NCBA President and Victoria, Texas cattleman talks about NCBA’s Legislative Conference and the message members will be carrying to the Hill on trade, specifically the Trans Pacific Partnership.

EPA and Army Corps Seek to Expand Clean Water Act Authority


By Ashley McDonald
NCBA Enviromental Counsel

Last Tuesday, the EPA continued their outright assault on jobs and private property rights with the release of their proposed rule on “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will soon be taking public comments on this proposed regulation that they claim would simplify the Clean Water Act. Moreover, the EPA and the Corps claim this rule would not expand Federal authority over waters, but every land-use industry across the country disagrees. The vast majority of agricultural producers believe this proposal will drastically expand the activities that would be subject to the federal permitting scheme.

Traditionally, Federal authority over waters has been restricted to waters that were “navigable” under the Interstate Commerce powers given Congress in the Constitution, and those that were ecologically important to those navigable waters. However, this proposed rule by the EPA and the Corps fails to distinguish on the ground of navigability and instead claims federal jurisdiction over broad categories of waters by rule, with no analysis needed to determine whether the water has an important impact on traditionally navigable waters. This essentially obliterates the word “navigable” from the CWA.  
These categories include all waters in a floodplain, all waters in a riparian area, all waters located “in the region” of another jurisdictional water, and all tributaries. Many of these terms, such as riparian area and floodplain are left to the regulators to use their “best professional judgment” to determine their size and scope. Essentially, all waters, no matter how small, could become a WOTUS.
For example, ditches are considered a jurisdictional tributary under the proposed regulation, unless they fit into one of two narrow excluded categories: (1) if the ditch is excavated wholly in uplands, drain only uplands, and has less than perennial flow; or (2) the ditch does not contribute flow, either directly or through another water, to a traditional navigable water, interstate water, the territorial seas or an impoundment of a jurisdictional water. What “through another water” means is anyone’s guess.
Therefore, producers will need to look at every segment of their ditch, determining drain and flow to the satisfaction of the regulator’s “best professional judgment” before they can be certain of permits that may be required to apply pesticides, fertilizers, allow cattle to graze, or undertake any activity that may be seen as a “discharge” near a drainage. And it is likely the producer will never be certain he has considered all the avenues that the regulators have to make something a WOTUS.
Far from creating certainty, this proposal makes determinations less clear and amounts only to a land grab by EPA and the Corps. Not only for agriculture, but for any industry that relies on land use, including energy companies, home builders, real estate developers, manufacturers, and even cities and counties with stormwater systems. Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ken.) recently said in his opening statement in the 2015 Budget Hearing on the EPA:
“I am also dismayed at this week’s news that despite years of concerns expressed by this Committee, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers are working to create new rules that will place strict new standards on thousands of miles of streams in this country. These are streams which flow seasonally or after heavy rains. By creating this new definition, the Administration is again striking at Kentucky’s economy and workforce, since every hollow and valley in my region has such a stream running through it. This means that no economic activity – no road construction, no coal mining – will occur without the say-so of a bureaucrat in Washington.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, it will be open for public comments for 90 days. NCBA will be submitting comments on behalf of our members and our state affiliates. We also hope you will take the time to submit comments. Currently, you can submit a letter to your representatives at BeefUSA.org.

Beltway Beef Commentary: Waters of the United States

NCBA Environmental Counsel, Ashley McDonald, discusses in depth some of the concerns of cattlemen and women with the EPA proposed rule on Waters of the United States.

March 28, 2014

Working Together to Protect Our Rights


Brice Lee
President,
Public Lands Council
Spring is upon us, and many of us livestock producers find ourselves doing the same kind of rituals—like dragging fields, planting, working calves, and doing the rain dance. It’s interesting to think about the things those of us in the industry have in common, no matter what part of the country we’re in. I think one of the most important things we share is a set of principles that we stick to, principles that guide organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC) so that we can collectively help each other. Whether you’re a cow/calf operation that depends on federal land part of the year for feed, or feeding yearlings in a Kansas feedlot, you depend on regulatory certainty and private property rights to keep your business viable and ensure a good future for your family.
These are the principles that guide both NCBA and its sister organization, PLC. As president of PLC, I’m very pleased with the longstanding relationship we have with NCBA, which seems to grow stronger every year. Based in Washington, D.C., PLC is dedicated to representing the 22,000 ranchers who operate part of the year on federal land in the West. Many of those ranchers are medium-to-smaller sized family outfits, and they count on public lands due to the enormous amount of federal land in the West—which accounts for about 50 percent of the landmass in our 13 affiliate states. These operations’ importance to the industry might surprise you: nearly 40 percent of the western cowherd (and about 50 percent of the nation's sheep herd) spends some time on public lands.
PLC works hand-in-hand with NCBA not just on public land grazing rights, but on other mutual issues, such as land and water rights. In fact, we share staff and office space with NCBA’s policy team. Many of you know Dustin Van Liew, PLC’s executive director, who is also executive director of NCBA’s federal land policy division. Marci Schlup, our manager of legislative affairs, is a more recent hire, hailing from the great state of Wyoming. She also works for both PLC and NCBA. Dustin and Marci are hard at work every day in D.C., educating members of Congress and their staff, as well as agency officials.
PLC is rancher-directed. I’m a cattle rancher out of Hesperus, Colo., and am currently serving as president in my last year of six as a PLC officer. Brenda Richards, a cattle rancher of Reynolds Creek, Idaho, is our vice-president, and Dave Eliason, a cattle rancher from Snowville, Utah, is our secretary/treasurer. We are a membership organization with dues-paying livestock organizations from 13 western states. Our national affiliates include NCBA, the American Sheep Industry Association, and the Association of National Grasslands.

Many of our priority issues on Capitol Hill, with the regulatory agencies and in the courts, will be very familiar to NCBA members. For example, our priority legislation, the Grazing Improvement Act, is also one of NCBA’s top priorities. This legislation would bring business certainty to ranchers on federal lands, where grazing rights are constantly under the threat of overregulation and litigation by radical anti-livestock groups. We are also very involved in efforts to make legislative improvements to the Endangered Species Act, a law that might be the number one economic disaster our nation’s producers face. The ESA has led to battles such as the possible listing of the greater sage grouse, an issue in which we are highly engaged. We’re also hard at work keeping the Forest Service from taking stockwater rights on federal land, including supporting the Water Rights Protection Act.  When necessary, we also dig into legal battles to protect land and water rights, such as recent Supreme Court victories to rein in the EPA (Sackett v. EPA) and keep the government from taking land it doesn’t own (Brandt v. U.S.).
I look forward to seeing many of you at the PLC/NCBA Legislative Conference in D.C., in just a few days, where these issues and many more will be discussed. There sure are a lot of challenges, and I’m grateful to be part of two organizations that are as vigilant, proactive, and influential as NCBA and PLC. If you would like to learn more about PLC, feel free to visit www.publiclandscouncil.org or call the NCBA/PLC office.