Sunday, January 23, 2011

Obama's Promise

Last week I was in Washington, D.C., the land of milk and honey. I am the newest member of the Idaho Grain Producers Association (IGPA) executive board and we were attending the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) winter meeting.

Farmers and friends from different states were doing their job in committees and on the full board to prepare for the annual convention in March at the Commodity Classic in Tampa, Florida.

Both organizations are working on their policies for all issues concerning wheat farmers. This is how the troops work in the trenches of politics. We are preparing for "battle" with another Congress and are looking towards another Farm Bill.

While back there the newspaper that was delivered to my door was the Wall Street Journal. I can't afford to purchase a subscription (I am too cheap), but try to read it any chance I get. On the front page was a teaser block highlighting an article about the President's "Mandates on Regulation Review" on page A3.

The article "Obama Launches Rule Review, Pledging to Spur Jobs, Growth" came as a surprise to most of us attending NAWG. Quoting the WSJ: ...Mr. Obama said he intends to issue an executive order initiating a review to "make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation" focusing on rules that "stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive." WOW!

This is great news for agriculture I am sure (insert sarcasm here.) Will my farm or farms around the country be considered a "business?" And who gets to decide which rules and regulations are "excessive"? Is this just another great press op speech, or just a ploy to relax the Republican controlled House?

I can think of a couple of agencies that have excessive rules and regulations. The first one is the Environmental Protection Agency. I will say it here, They Don't Like Agriculture! The rules they have made since their creation in the Nixon administration has targeted agriculture which 99% consists of family businesses.

The EPA exploits anything to do with water, emissions (dust), and animals. The endangered species act seems to be their "weapon of choice," but they use all of the tools in their bag. The intent from Congress is butchered when it get into the hands of EPA "surgeons."

The second agency is the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Their charter is to provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to incorporate better conservation practices on an operation.

I experienced firsthand how they "help" farmers by going through the Conservation Security Program (CSP). They did everything humanly possible to keep me out! I was successful in appealing through the labyrinth of bureaucracy and have one, if not the only, 2007 CSP contract in the U.S.

The third agency I will pick on is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As some of you know I am into Unmanned Air Vehicles and believe that there is a future for commercial use. Quoting a friend who has spent over 20 years on the "Hill": "...I have dealt with all agencies in DC, but this was the rudest one I have ever encountered!"

Following the FAA rules that cover commercial flights I would have to: 1) Have a pilot’s license with instrument rating,  2) Pass a flight physical, and 3) be in a full sized aircraft following the UAV. I am talking about something that would weigh less than 20 pounds and has a wing span of eight feet; the size of a goose.

If "Little Johnnie" were to purchase a hobby helicopter, put a camera on it, and knock on your door to see if you want your gutters checked, he could not take any money from you. I applaud "Little Johnnie" for his entrepreneurial spirit, but if he takes a penny he is now a law breaker.

In Lewiston, Idaho last fall, two little kids less than eight years old were hassled by the city for selling pumpkins off of their front porch. This is ludicrous and wrong. We are over regulated by bullies with tenure that "we" employ! 

What about the teenager that wants to make some money for college and learn a good work ethic? He/she has to wait until  their 16th birthday and can only work so many hours in a week. Why not let that person who wants to do something other than play video games get a jump start on life?

When I was growing up there were more hay jobs than kids. We did "dummy blocks" (small square bales weighing around 70 pounds) and it was a great way to make money in rural America. Now the attitude is that mommy and daddy will just give me money, maybe even Uncle Sam.

On the other hand, not all agency employees do this. I have a great relationship with these people from the local to federal levels. Actions of people are the same whether in government or in everyday life, it gets magnified when it happens to you. They are people.

I am hopeful that something good will come out of the President's comments and executive order. I am hopeful that Congress will hold the President to his words. And, I am hopeful that agencies will utilize common sense and consult with those of us in the "public" that normally don't get consulted with.

Agencies were created to help the public, to protect them, to ensure that some protections for things were Incorporated into everyday life and business. But, am I not part of the "public"? Are small businesses, farmers, and ranchers part of the "public"? It is a shame that parts of the public are harassed and shunned because of bureaucrats or agencies with an agenda. I just wonder if that will happen with "Re-Publics?"

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