House Could Again Be Big Government Landmark

You may have noticed that our reflection of agriculture’s displeasure with the EPA has become a sentiment shared by enough citizens and businesses that politicians and the media – at least conservative media – have noticed.  Issues and principles that farmers and ranchers have argued for decades have finally become important to much of the rest of America.

 On Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, a case with far reaching implications for all will be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court, the first case this year for which oral arguments will be presented.  Just as a small pink house in Connecticut became the focus of private property rights in the Kelo case in 2005, a house not yet constructed in Idaho will again put the spotlight on property rights in 2012.  The case involves private property rights at a fundamental level and its favorable resolution could significantly bolster Americans’ rights, as they seek to get Constitutional rights back from a big government that has seized them.

 In 2008, an Idaho couple who purchased a lot in a platted subdivision already occupied with houses suddenly found the EPA telling them that not only were they forbidden to build a house on the lot but the substantial amount of gravel they had put on the lot must be removed.  The EPA had declared the lot that the county had given them a permit to build on a “wetlands.”  Michael and Chantell Sackett found out removing the gravel they’d already put on the lot would cost more than the lot itself.  On top of that, the EPA, unless they removed the gravel and returned the lot to its pristine state, would begin fining them $32,000 day.

 To add insult to injury, two levels of courts told the Sacketts they were not allowed to challenge the EPA in court.  Luckily for them – at least short-term – the Supreme Court is allowing them their day in court.  It is to be hoped that the Sacketts get justice much more in line with what Americans think are their rights under the Constituion than Susette Kelo did.

Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 12:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Our Congress At Work

Like a bunch of college kids putting off what everyone knows they are supposed to do, Congress is just now beginning the serious parrying and thrusting over budget issues with Christmas break looming.  Some folks like the idea of a split Congress, not minding the standoffs that keep things from advancing.  Politicians like Harry Reid don’t like it when he can’t ram through the things he wants to pass.  He rails about “partisanship” and “politics” when it blocks his legislation.  Of course, Harry’s idea of a compromise is typical of the left: compromise is when you give up what you want so that I can have what I want.  That’s why compromise is a dirty word to many conservatives.

 As for me, this year was always likely to be a year in which the best we could hope for – we being those who prefer the free market, limited government and a lower, revised tax structure – was delaying actions, much like a rear guard fighting off an advancing enemy while the rest of the army escaped to regroup.  In this case, the rest of the “army” is our economy, our country and our Constitution.  Much like we talked about in 2009-2010, the Party of No is the best answer to many of the ideas hatched in Congress in recent years.  It is a badge of honor.

 So how is the Christmas fight shaping up?

 As you’re probably aware, the two-percentage point Social Security payroll tax holiday expires at the end of the year.  So also do unemployment benefits for some folks who are reaching the end of their 99-week helping hand.  Congress has never solved its “doc fix” issue, so each year it has to renew a temporary extension or all the doctors providing care under Medicare or their reimbursement drops 27 percent next year.  All of these items are really just temporary pain medications, waiting for the physician to fix the economy and our health care problems.  Most Democrats and most Republicans – although somewhat reluctantly – would go along with these Band-Aids. 

 Of course, the Democrats have proven experts at spending – along with way too many Republicans – but they want to cover their spending by raising taxes on the “rich,” which is shaping up to be anybody who makes anything more than a decent water-treading wage.  The Democrats never talk about paying for any of their spending.  They only bring up paying when it comes to tax cuts they believe we cannot and should not afford.

 The Republicans had found other places to cut spending in order to cover the costs of things like extended unemployment benefits, many of them ideas Obama and the Democrats had advanced in precious discussion.  But as has been the case, when it comes to actually cutting spending, the Democrats refuse.

 The Republicans at least have taken note of the outrageous way the Obama administration has handled the Keystone XL pipeline affair and tied it up in the package to force Obama and the left to fish or cut bait on the pipeline.  It is incredible to what lengths this administration will go to further its environmental religion, no matter what the cost to our country, its economy and jobs.  I’m only surprised Obama didn’t send someone to South Africa to help craft and sign us on to a continuation of the Kyoto treaty.  Copenhagen and the global warming scandals seem to have taught the Obama administration nothing except they have to try harder domestically.

 I know some folks in Nebraska have some concerns about the pipeline route and the Sand Hills.  I understand the importance of the Ogallala aquifer.  I also know it varies in distance from surface to aquifer from hundreds of feet to bubbling out of the ground.  Keystone has offered to alter the route to avoid the Sand Hills and that should be allowed without another year or two of environmental “studies.”  They already have a pipeline through Nebraska that avoids the Sand Hills.

 The Senate has already torpedoed versions of balanced budget bills crafted from each party.  Noises coming out of Washington on Thursday made it sound like they were close to some deal on the “payroll deductions” bill.  Don’t hold your breath.  They also haven’t forged a budget deal to fund the government beyond Friday night – yes, Dec. 16, 2011 and they have had months to work on that.  After all, the Senate – supposedly chock full of the nation’s greatest statesmen – has not passed a budget in over 900 days.  The 1,200-page omnibus spending bill is rumored to arrive on Congressmen’s desks Thursday night for a Friday vote.  Sound familiar?

 A half-dozen government agencies have had their budgets passed and would not have to shut down.  Agriculture, for example, would continue operating.

 If you believe the pipeline will create lots of new jobs and bring oil from our friends in Canada a lot cheaper than floating it from the Middle East, now would be the time to contact your senator.  The enviros have talked about some spills the pipeline company who would be building the Keystone XL has had on other pipelines.  What you have to research is that the oil from all the spills would fit in a couple 5-gallon buckets.  That’s how inane our nation’s energy policy has become.  Forego 5-10,000 construction jobs and tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs and a flow of oil to push energy our gas and diesel prices down on the green altar of “sacrifice” and higher costs and a weakened economy.

 At best, Obama’s call to delay the pipeline at least another year is like the Free Trade Agreements in which he willing gave up hundreds of millions of dollars to agriculture and manufacturing, tax revenue to the government and jobs to thousands of Americans on Big Labor’s altar for three years, only to cave in to election pressures later.  The money and the jobs can never be gotten back.  So it is with this pipeline.  So it is with the mCOOL law that everyone knows will have to be repealed or hundreds of millions in penalties paid, after the WTO ruled against the U.S.  But the money to the livestock meat production chain is gone forever.  That’s the best spin.  I can’t even tell you what the worst-case scenario of what Obama is trying to do.  It is horrible to contemplate.

 Don’t forget the final debate before primary voting begins is tonight, Thursday at 9:00 EST on the Fox News Channel.

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Catch Between Water & Dust Regs Eased A Bit

The tidal wave of opposition to federal regulation and, in particular, the EPA’s efforts to derail the economy is chipping away a bit at Lisa Jackson’s famous,  “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead approach.”  With agriculture caught between Clean Water regulation that classified puddles as navigable waters and proposed dust regulation that would halt pickups and tractors when it was dry, Jackson has threatened the very existence of food production in the United States.

But with reelection pressures on the Obama adminstration added to years of complaints from farm and ranch groups, ridicule in public, pressure from Congressmen and the very real threat of shutting down rural activity, EPA Administrator Jackson is being forced to slow the engines a little. 

NCBA and the Public Lands Council reported Monday that EPA had decided to “retain the current coarse particulate matter (dust) standard,” rather than hold farm and ranch operations to a standard twice as stringent.  They pointed out that farmers and ranchers would have faced the choice to operate and risk enormous fines and insolvency or shutting down.  Simply driving a pickup down a country gravel road would have exceeded proposed dust limits.

NCBA’s Bill Donald complained that farmers and ranchers should not be at risk to some federal dust standard in the first place.  The potential for EPA to ratchet down the standards is always there.

So Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Ne.) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) have introduced a bill that would essentially exempt farmers and ranchers from federal dust regulation as long as state and local governments regulate it (H.R. 1633).  Over 125 organizations signed a letter of support for the bill sent to the House Energy and Power Subcomittee.

This issue is not dead as long as EPA can change its mind under federal authority any time in the future.  But this issue reminds everyone that public pressure from producers in an industry, added to Congressional pressure and the threat of retaliation at the polls can have an impact on federal agencies and elected officials.  It is why political interest and activity is important for all involved in food production.

Published in: on October 18, 2011 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Dangerous or Fantastic New Trend or Overload?

In a move described differently depending on whose ox is being gored, the EPA announced late last week that it will delay the release of new proposed restrictions on greenhouse gases affecting electicity-generating power plants, restrictions that would drive up the cost of electricity.

Coming on the heels of the “ozone rule” delay noted in our last post, the delay has enviromental zealots seeing a “dangerous trend” and decrying pressure from “antienvironmentalists,” (“EPA Again Delays Greenhouse-Gas Rule,” Wall Street Journal, 09/15/11).

Did you get that?  If you think it is neither wise nor necessary to keep cranking down restrictions regarding clean air and water until they make production, power and breathing neither practical or affordable, you are an “antienvironmentalist.”  Conservatives — cattlemen among them — are often heard reminding people that no one is against clean air and clean water.  But the envirozealots don’t buy it.  Oppose their extreme views and you are an “antienvironmentalist.

We see the delay as evidence that pressure from business and industry, from electrical power generators and purveyors of common sense (voters) is at last having some impact on the White House and government agencies.  Activists claim that “political” pressure is partially responsible and that is a trend that they consider dangerous.  Of course, “political” means having to do with voters and elections  and the activists certainly don’t want that.  Elitist envirozealots — believers in the manmade global warming/climate change religion — want EPA actions limited to their far reaching imaginations, their lawsuits and deals made by courts with them, certainly not with average Joe voters.  Voters might object to paying ruinous prices for electricity or fuel or food caused by overzealous regulations. 

Even the New York Times called the delay a “tacit admission that the regulations pose political, economic and technical challenges that cannot be addressed on the aggressive timetable that the agency set for itself early in the Obama administration,” (“EPA Plans Delay of Rule on Emissions,” 09/13/11).  One wonders exactly what the Times means in its camouflaged language — “economic challenges” — posed by the rules.  Does that mean the rules will cost consumers a bundle and we should ask them first?  Or does it mean — as other rules and legislation have been handled by the Obama administration — that they need to slip these things in before consumers/voters realize what’s going on?

The activists and even some attorneys for the “other side” claim another part of the problem is that EPA has just bit off more than it can chew.  This delay was announced by EPA’s Lisa Jackson, not imposed by the President.  So some say EPA is working on so many regulations it can’t even meet its own deadlines.  Given that various sources point to EPA having nearly 16,000 to 18,000 employees beavering away, that should scare the average producer or taxpayer to death.

One attorney noted that the greenhouse gas rule would only force expensive modifications to existing coal fired power plants.  The upcoming “mercury rule” would likely have a bigger impact, expected to force the shutdown of older coal-fired plants totally, according to Jeffery Holmstead, an attorney at Bracewell & Giuliani and former EPA official (“EPA Delays Its Greenhouse-Gas Rules,” Washington Post, 09/15/11.)  Yes, Washington can contemplate even worse things yet to come.

Whether this is a trend that can be continued or just a couple of lucky breaks remains to be seen.  But it does offer agriculture and business some hope that political pressure can have some impact on the political left and the activists who would prefer no industry and no affordable food to get that last little microparticle of pollution out of everything on, above or below earth.

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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