By Jeff Helms
Farmers this month are praising changes to rules related to endangered species, trucking and water as the Trump administration continues to rollback regulations impacting commerce and private property rights.
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Mitt Walker said much of the ongoing reform is aimed at restoring original intent of legislation following years of regulatory overreach.
“Broad interpretation of laws in recent years has threatened the ability of farmers to produce our nation’s food and fiber,” said Walker, the Federation’s National Affairs director. “These rule changes are helping restore common sense to the regulatory process and will give farmers, businesses and individuals some relief from overbearing regulations.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service announced rule revisions Aug. 12 to ensure clear, consistent and efficient enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rule affirms the ESA’s requirement that the listing, delisting or reclassification of a species be based solely on “the best scientific and commercial information.”
The rule change also reinstates ESA’s requirement for critical habitat to be where threatened or endangered species are present at the time of listing. Unoccupied areas could only be considered in special circumstances. Additionally, the Fish and Wildlife Service also rescinded its “blanket rule,” which had automatically given threatened species the same protections as endangered species unless otherwise specified.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced proposed rules Aug. 14 to update hours-of-service regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers.
The rules would give truckers additional flexibility for taking required breaks and sleeper rest and would extend both the mileage and allowed hours of service under the short-haul exception.
Farmers also welcomed news of further progress toward repealing the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which would have greatly expanded regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall praised movement of the repeal to the Office of Management and Budget, the last step before formal issuance.
“For too long, farmers and ranchers have had to live with real regulatory confusion,” Duvall said. “We applaud the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers for taking the next step to set aside the unlawful 2015 rule. We urge the agencies to take the final step and right this wrong once and for all.”
The WOTUS rule was dealt another blow this week following a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. The court found EPA overstepped not just the Clean Water Act, but also the Administrative Procedure Act, which lays out the most basic rules governing how agencies may propose and establish federal regulations.