AmericanFarm.com

Farmland an endangered species? (Editorial)

(June 17, 2014) Does this sound familiar? It has that ring about it.
More than 30 counties and almost half of the land — most of it privately owned — in Arkansas would be affected if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moves ahead with its proposal to designate 769 river miles in Arkansas as critical habitat for the Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussels.
In the potentially affected area, “Arkansas has more than 21,000 family farms, 7.4 million acres of farmland, and more than $2.9 billion worth of agricultural income, which accounts for a half million jobs,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Zac Bradley.
“Farmers in these areas produce more than 78 million broiler chickens, more than 6 million laying hens, 606,000 acres of rice, 780,000 acres of soybeans and 8.6 million acres of forestland.”
There is, in our contemporary culture, the ever-present over-reach of the federal bureaucracy, particularly into the farming community.
There seems to be within federal agencies, simply no recognition at all of the cost of taking farmland out of production or limiting its productivity.
In dollars alone in Arkansas, is protecting the Neosho Mucket and the Rabbitsfoot mussels worth $2.9 billion?
Then there’s what is known as the Ditch the Rule battle involving farmers in the Mid-Atlantic and across the nation.
EPA, in what is viewed as an expansion of its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, has proposed broadening the “Waters of the U.S.” rule.
The American Farm Bureau contends that while EPA’s analysis of the proposal determined there would be only 1,300 additional acres that would be regulated under the Clean Water Act, an AFBF analysis shows the proposed rule could affect more than 106 million acres, and that’s looking exclusively from a wetlands perspective.
The hundreds of millions of acres impacted could include, cropland, pastureland, Conservation Reserve Program acreage, rangeland, forestland and other agricultural lands, the AFBF warns.
Published on April 21 in the Federal Register, the more-than-111,000-word “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule reflects EPA’s latest interpretation of the 1972 Clean Water Act.
The AFBF, which is leading the challenge of the EPA’s latest effort to expand its authority, warns that the rule “could ultimately lead to the unlawful expansion of federal regulation to cover routine farming and ranching practices as well as other common private land uses, such as building homes.”
The sense within the federal agencies seems to be that if the president can ignore Congress and the Constitution when it suits his purpose, so can they ignore the limits of authority placed upon them when they were created by Congress.
By the way, both the Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussels are freshwater mussels found in rivers and streams in Arkansas and other states.
Both are listed as endangered.
So is American farmland unless the industry finds a way to apply the brakes to a runaway bureaucracy.