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By Staff | Aug 10, 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are challenging each other over jurisdiction of regulating concentrated animal feeding operations

It’s a bit like what might happen if the FBI challenged the jurisdiction of the local sheriff. The sheriff is duly elected by the citizens in his county while the EPA, elected by no one, acts like it owns the place.

I don’t know if there is another government agency that loses Democrats more votes in red states than the EPA. The EPA personifies the pushy federal government interfering with the business and livelihoods of hard-working, honest people to answer to some elite environmental tsar in Washington that could care less about the impact of their rules on people.

Things like suggesting cow flatulence and dust from combines be regulated, and the revelation of over-flights monitoring feedlots just tick people off. Republicans love the ire that the EPA creates, throwing gas on the fire at every occasion it can for political advantage. They use the EPA against Democrats embellishing every friction for maximum effect.

EPA feedlot over-flights became unmanned drones like they were tracking Al-Queda. Not true, but if they can get it going at the coffee shop it makes no difference. The EPA swashbuckled into a feedlot owned by a friend of mine a few years ago in the black government SUVs like a SWAT team demanding to see the books.

He was the lucky recipient of one of those regional inspections and audits where they literally took over the feedlot for a couple days and really found nothing to justify the action.

Having the EPA fly over is better than having them confront you on the ground. They were not what you would call polite. It just feeds the narrative stereotype of the pushy government know-it-all bureaucrats.

Democrats know the score, so they cringe every time EPA makes a move knowing that there is a political cost involved. The political fallout is about the only thing that holds EPA back from being as over-bearing and obnoxious as it really wants to be.

EPA doesn’t think that the state DNR is doing its job regulating CAFOs. If you ask feedlots, the DNR has been plenty tough on them, but EPA thinks DNR has been holding back. Feedlots have been made to jump through all sorts of hoops the past few years, so it is not as if they have not been regulated by DNR.

However, the working relationship between feedlots and the DNR appears to be too cozy for EPA. The state legislature controls DNR, in part, through its budget. Iowa Republicans don’t like regulation so hold back on funding the agency. I kind of see the over-all system of checks and balances as working as it is. Iowa has 7,000 feedlots that meet EPA’s definition of being CAFOs. EPA said DNR is being too lenient enforcing the laws.

EPA charges “The state of Iowa’s permitting program for confined animal feeding operations does not do enough to assess whether unpermitted CAFOs need permits, does not levy high enough penalties to violators and may not be following the Clean Water Act with its zero-discharge regulation.”

I think DNR has been executing good judgment relative to enforcement, which doesn’t enter into the equation with EPA or environmental groups. The Des Moines Register praised EPA charges linking CAFOs to the dead zone in the Gulf, which is absurd.

That feeds the stereotype that feedlots are all oozing effluent into streams and rivers when they are not. Feedlot CAFOs have virtually nothing to do with river quality.

What they are attempting to do is use feedlots as a scapegoat. Alarmed livestock producers are going to the sheriff they know, Gov. Branstad, to protect them from regulators that don’t know them.

I think Iowa can decide how it wants to regulate its feedlots and EPA can keep its shiny ugly nose out of it.

Kevin Baskins highlighted what Iowa DNR has done right. “IDNR will work closely with EPA to address concerns highlighted in the report and, more importantly, continue to protect Iowa’s environment and natural resources,” Baskins said. “In less than 10 years, Iowa has gone from having many uninspected and potentially discharged large open feedlots to DNR having identified and obtained pollution control permits for all large open feedlot CAFOs in Iowa and is on track to inspect 100 percent of these facilities every five years.

“Our goal is to work with producers and organizations to protect the environment, particularly water quality.”

EPA wants still more authority to regulate water under the Clean Water Act. According to Craig Hill of the Iowa Farm Bureau, “The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are seeking to strike the word navigable from the CWA. That move would allow the agencies to regulate almost every body of water in the United States; even a ditch that only holds water for a few hours after a heavy rain.

“They could include regulations on nearly everything, including ditches, culverts, farm ponds and even mud puddles. The agency’s plan would also strip authority from states and localities to regulate local drainage and road ditches.”

They would run over the sheriff to get at agriculture. If Obama loses Iowa this will be one reason why.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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