Ag Policy Blog

Chasing Ghosts, Future of Federal Regulations

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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This past weekend was the first time I've covered the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention, drawing the lucky short straw to give up the frigid cold of Nebraska for the sun and 70s of Phoenix, Arizona.

Yeah, someone had to do it.

Though the convention itself was chock-full of good discussion on primetime agriculture issues -- farm bill, immigration and federal regulation -- it was a major bonus to listen to Peyton and Archie Manning talk about stuff (although I've never been a Denver Broncos or Indianapolis Colts fan). I was struck by how Peyton's life of retirement includes talking to everyday folks in that Nationwide jingle.

What's more, at the encouragement of our ag policy editor, Chris Clayton, I booked a three-night stay at the "historic" Hotel San Carlos, which is just four blocks from the massive Phoenix Convention Center.

Little did I know just how "historic" the hotel really is.

The likes of Clark Gable stayed there quite frequently in room 412 and Marilyn Monroe quite often in room 326, according to this historian:…. And of course, there are stories about the place being haunted, perhaps brought on by how the building was built supposedly on the same ground where ancient tribesman worshipped an ancient god of knowledge.

Had something gone bump in the night I wouldn't have known it -- after all, how does one sleep in a strange place without ear plugs?

Speaking of knowledge, yeah, I came away from this year's AFBF conference knowing farmers and ranchers are not likely to sit back and let the next administration get away with doing nothing about the effects of federal regulations.

Though the thought in rural America seems to be the incoming Trump administration, from day one, will start slashing federal regulations that hurt farmers, chances are it will not be that simple.

Through the Administrative Procedures Act, Congress and the new president will be able to essentially do away with regulations approved in the past 60 days with the stroke of pens.

One giant wildcard remains: the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule.

The rule is on a national hold by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court Friday may decide whether it will hear a challenge on whether the Sixth Circuit is the proper venue for the myriad cases.

When it comes to WOTUS, even if it ultimately is struck down, Congress and the new administration likely will be left with having to replace it. That's because there remains a lot of conflicting legal views of how to define the term "navigable waters."

With that in mind, the American Farm Bureau Federation seems to be taking no chances when it comes to federal regulations.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall, a Georgia farmer, said during a keynote address last weekend Congress should pass sweeping regulatory reform that unburdens the lives of farmers and ranchers.

"The election should send a message loud and clear to our politicians: Ignore rural America at your own risk," Duvall said.

During his annual address, Duvall issued a request for farm bureau members to send e-mails using their smartphones to Congress about the need for regulatory reform.

In addition, AFBF delegates approved a resolution that calls on the federal government to adhere to a set of principles when it comes to regulation, including:

-- The use of sound science;

-- Consideration of costs and benefits to stakeholders;

-- Transparency in federal agencies and departments;

-- Reduction of abuses of the court settlement process;

-- Limiting deference granted by courts to agencies' interpretation of law;

-- Prohibiting agency misuse of social media to lobby the public in support of agency proposals;

-- Greater congressional oversight of agencies;

-- Congressional approval of major rules;

-- A minimum comment period for rules; and

-- Reform of the Equal Access to Justice Act.

Todd Neeley can be reached at

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