Newhouse Introduces Legislation to Provide Regulatory Certainty for Farms
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) released the following statement after introducing H.R. 5685, the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act to clarify congressional intent regarding the inappropriate application of regulations under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) to agricultural nutrient management. Rep. Newhouse was joined by original cosponsors Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rep. Henry Cuellar, Ph.D. (D-TX), Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-ID), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Rep. David G. Valadao (R-CA), Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), and Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX).
“As a farmer myself, I know how seriously farmers take our responsibility to be good stewards,” said Rep. Newhouse. “The goal of environmental rules should be to assist agriculture producers to improve nutrient management and reduce their environmental footprint, not subject them to lawsuits and put them out of business. It is unfair for agricultural nutrients to be exempt from a law, then have a court find farmers at fault for non-compliance with the law. Farmers need certainty to what rules apply to them. Complying with appropriate federal regulations should never be a guessing game that results in increased liability, especially when many farmers are taking proactive, voluntary steps to manage land and water quality. I am introducing this legislation in order to clarify which federal rules apply to farmers, livestock producers, and dairies, and to clarify and to reassert Congress’ legislative intent regarding nutrient management practices.”
The Farm Regulatory Certainty Act would:
- Reaffirm and clarify congressional intent regarding the inappropriateness of subjecting agricultural byproducts to RCRA.
- Codify the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations regarding the treatment of agricultural byproducts under RCRA.
- Prevent farmers who are already engaged in legal action or are making a diligent attempt to work with the state or federal government to address nutrient management issues from being targeted by citizen suits.
The Farm Regulatory Certainty Act would not:
- Prevent the EPA from enforcing current regulations under the Safe Water Drinking Act, the Clean Water Act, or any other applicable law.
- Exempt livestock producers from any laws or regulations intended to govern agricultural operations.
In January 2015, a federal judge in Spokane, Washington sided with environmental activists who brought a lawsuit against several dairies in the State of Washington under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) for what they claimed was the inappropriate storage and handling of animal manure. However, RCRA was intended to govern landfills and to prevent the opening dumping of “solid wastes”. The EPA’s own preexisting RCRA regulations from 1979 acknowledge that RCRA does “not apply to agricultural waste, including manure and crop residue, returned to the soil as fertilizers or soil conditioners.” [40 CFR 257.1(c)(1)] The novel interpretation of the law stretches definitions to describe manure nitrates as a “solid waste” in order to hold livestock producers liable. Such an interpretation opens up the nation’s agricultural producers who use or store manure or other fertilizers to an additional, expansive, unintended layer of federal regulation under RCRA.