Patrick B. McGuigan
Last week, Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese went to the nation's capital, where he testified before the House Subcommittee on Environment. According to a summary sent to CapitolBeatOK by his staff, Reese testified that “lowering the ozone level to 60-65 parts per billion as proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would mean greater costs to Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers in retrofitting engines, increased costs for dairy barns and poultry houses and possibly curtailing pesticide and fertilizer applications.”
Reese said, “One of the most critical issues in agriculture today is timing. Planting, applying pesticides and fertilizers and harvesting are critical decisions that cannot be made timely with EPA prescribing the formula.”
Reese contended rules under the Clean Air Act should be based on public health criteria, and not undermine production efficiency and other policy goals. Reese said, “One of the three most necessary ingredients to protect public health is food. Many may think that food just appears in grocery stores, but it does not.”
He commented, “I am thankful for the efforts EPA and Americans have invested in protecting and improving our precious air and water resources. However, at some point we have to stop and consider competing interests in protecting human health, natural resources, our food supply and our economy. When does government finally decide it can’t know all of the answers?”
According to his staff, Reese stressed that “ozone levels have been moving in the right direction for the past 20 years by people working together. Providing the safest, most affordable food supply in the world requires a great deal of commerce that both cleans the air and contaminates the air. Fertilizer, transportation, diesel fuel, food processing and food shipment are all necessary steps to put food on the plates of Americans.”
A former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Reese is a member of Gov. Mary Fallin's executive cabinet.
U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, is chairman of the Environment Subcommittee. Introducing Reese to the panel was U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
In other AG-industry news, Gov. Fallin has signed legislation changing administrative practices relating to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). House Bill 1514 will modify existing legislation, crating deadlines for the state Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry to respond to CAFO applications.
State Rep. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, sponsor of H.B. 1514, said he appreciated Fallin's quick signature on his proposal, adding, “I believe this will be a good change in the permit process a feedyard has to experience. It will streamline the process and cut through some unnecessary hoops that had to be jumped through in the past.”
As summarized in a House press release, the new law, which takes effect on November 1, requires the agency cannot act on “an application if a property owner requests a hearing and it meets requirements set in the bill. Deadlines and administration processes in the measure sets the burden of proof on the plaintiff.”