|“Northeast Georgia’s poultry and farming communities bring food, jobs and economic growth to our country. These hardworking producers have been unnecessarily burdened by federal policies. I haven’t found a bureaucrat more motivated or more equipped to steward our natural resources than local farmers, and I support the House’s efforts to bring them relief from misguided government red tape,” said Congressman Doug Collins.
Food and agriculture industries support more than 43 million jobs and contribute nearly $7 trillion annually to the U.S. economy. The American cattle industry alone employs more than 800,000 producers. Family farms comprise 99% of all U.S. farms. These farms are remarkably efficient and one acre can produce approximately 3,000 pounds of wheat, 30,000 pounds of pumpkins and nearly 1,000 pounds of cotton. Unfortunately,American farmers and ranchers are struggling as a result of a 50% decline in net farm income over the last four years, the largest decline since the start of the Great Depression. Members of the Western Caucus recognize these challenges and have been leading numerous efforts to provide relief.
The most recent farm bill was signed into law in February of 2014 (P.L. 113-79)
That legislation was expected to save taxpayers $23 billion over 10 years, but the most recent Congressional Budget Office projections estimate that the 2014 Farm Bill will now save the U.S. Treasury $100 billion. Many of the important programs authorized by this bill will expire in 2018 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Fortunately, ensuring affordable and safe domestic food production for American families are important to our members. Western Caucus Member Mike Conaway has made authorization a priority recently launching a landing page
to share worthwhile information.
Members of the Western Caucus have being leading the charge for years to repeal the estate tax, also known as the "Death Tax". In the 114th Congress, the House passed H.R. 1105, the Death Tax Repeal Act, by a vote of 240-179. Mothers and fathers are taxed on their earnings and holdings while they are alive, and they should not have to worry about those holdings being taxed, yet again, when they die and aim to leave their children their belongings. The National Taxpayer Union Foundation estimates that the estate tax "swiped $23.1 billion per year from the wallets of Americans this year." All this unjust tax does is discourage more people from wanting to work in agriculture and retaining their family farm. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act lessened this burden by increasing the estate tax exclusion from $5.49 million to $10.98 million but did not repeal this punitive IRS mandate. Members of the Western Caucus will continue to push for full repeal of the "Death Tax".
Farmers and ranchers are burdened by a significant number of mandates including regulatory requirements associated with the Clean Water Act, the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Insecticide Act, amongst others. On April 26, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) titled, “Promoting Agriculture and Prosperity in Rural America.” The EO established an interagency task force and made clear that it is “in the national interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, harm rural communities, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world." Members of the Western Caucus have also been leading the charge to reduce unnecessary regulations on the agriculture industry.
Blocking the Obama Administration’s Proposed Child Farm Chore Regulations
The Obama Administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) dramatically attempted to overhaul youth agriculture labor regulations. This nonsensical proposal attempted to implement the most sweeping changes since the 1970s and could have prohibited our nation's youth from participating in 4-H programs and from working or doing basic functions on family farms. This proposed regulation were so unreasonable that they attempted to prevent teenagers from using ladders higher than six feet tall, from performing any task involving pesticides regardless of pesticide toxicity, from operating power-driven equipment and even from bailing hay. After much pressure from members of the Western Caucus and others, DOL announced that it was pulling the proposed rule. This was a victory for commonsense and our country's Ag producers.
The Endangered Species Act Needs to Be Modernized to Protect Ranchers and Farmers
James Holte confirmed the Endangered Species Act also inflicts significant regulatory burdens on farmers when testifying on behalf of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau before the U.S. Senate stating, “[The ESA] imposes far-reaching regulatory burdens on agriculture. Farmers and ranchers consider it their personal responsibility to be stewards of the land, however the ESA creates many challenges for them to balance agriculture production with wildlife habitat.” Much-needed updates to the Act would significantly benefit farmers and ranchers who often face the brunt of the ESA. 30 Members of the House led an effort urging the House Committees on Natural Resources and on Agriculture to work jointly to address the numerous regulatory inefficiencies and statutory roadblocks in the agriculture community by modernizing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and similarly outdated laws and regulations. To read more about this effort click HERE.
The Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule would have caused significant harm to rural America, including farmers, ranchers, small businesses, water users and other property owners. This flawed mandate directly contradicts prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which imposed limits on the extent of federal Clean Water Act. For years, Members of the Western Caucus introduced legislation, inserted funding riders into appropriations bills and passed at least five different measures through the House to block WOTUS. WOTUS was already stayed by the courts for its impressive unconstitutionality, but the Western Caucus nonetheless applauded the Administration’s move to listen to our members and issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to roll-back this hare-brained scheme. Click HERE
to read more.
One of the biggest issues facing agriculture is water. For those of us in the West, state water laws and the rights they protect are paramount to our economy, our environment and our way of life. Westerners suffer from drought on a constant basis, which is why we invested in water storage and delivery projects that supply water and hydropower in dry times. Attempted water grabs by federal agencies during the Obama Administration were atrocious. From the WOTUS rule, to the Ground Water Service Directive, or even the ski area water rights permitting conditions, the previous Administration attempted an all-out assault to take control of precious water resources that have traditionally been managed by states or private ownership. Members of the Western Caucus put forth a number of efforts to reject these overreaches as well as protect agriculture and our vital water supplies.
The GROW Act
American families, small businesses and farmers are hurting in the West underwent significant harm as a result of crippling drought conditions that plagued the West for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration exacerbated that pain by putting the demands of extremist special interest groups ahead of hard-working American families. This has had a dramatic impact: killing thousands of jobs, harming our food supply and leading to unemployment levels as high as 40% in some communities. To provide much needed relief, the House passed Western Caucus Member David Valadao's H.R. 23, the Gaining Responsibility on Water (GROW) Act with a bipartisan vote of 230-190. Click HERE to read more.
The Water Rights Protection Act
Western Caucus Member Scott Tipton's Water Rights Protection Act prevents the federal government from taking privately held water rights without just compensation. This would protect a variety of water users including rural communities, businesses, recreation opportunities, farmers and ranchers as well as other individuals that rely on privately held water rights for their livelihood. It does so by prohibiting federal agencies from extorting water rights through the use of permits, leases, and other land management arrangements, for which it would otherwise have to pay just compensation under the 5th Amendment of the Constitution. This legislation is necessary as the Forest Service and BLM have been aggressively pursuing such takings for several years now. Water Rights Protection Act passed out of the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in both the 113th, 114th and 115th Congresses. Click HERE to read more.
Blocking the Forest Service's Flawed Groundwater Directive
During the Obama Administration, the Forest Service (USFS) proposed a sweeping Groundwater Directive under the guise of eliminating future litigation. However, that Directive only caused further confusion and potential litigation. It has been universally recognized since a 1935 Supreme Court Case that the sole authority over groundwater resources belongs to individual states. Alarmingly, the attempted water grab by the USFS and its misguided groundwater directive was proposed without input from state or local leaders and without any meaningful outreach to water users themselves. Members of the Western Caucus fought the proposed groundwater directive from the beginning and 42 lawmakers sent a letter calling for withdrawal and warning that the Directive would restrict access to public lands and interfere with state and private water rights.As a result of this Congressional pressure, the Forest Service withdrew its overreaching proposed rule. Click HERE to read more.