Boozman: McCarthy to determine EPA policy
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark., said Tuesday that he believes Gina McCarthy, the White House national climate adviser, will determine environmental policy in the Biden administration rather than Michael Regan, President Biden’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
In an online speech to the crop insurance industry convention, Boozman noted that Regan had come before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on which he sits for a confirmation hearing but that Boozman believes that McCarthy, who headed EPA in the Obama administration, will decide environmental policy.
Boozman added that he fears that the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule, which the Trump administration rewrote, will be “coming back.” He told the crop insurers that legislators “need your help in fighting things that are not good for agriculture or the rest of the economy.”
(The Red River Farm Network noted this week that in discussing WOTUS at his hearing, Regan, who is the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, said, “I think courts will give us a ruling, but I also don’t want to lose an opportunity to take a look at what we’ve learned. As a state secretary, I’ve been on the receiving end of both rules. I’ve had conversations with farmers, and we have a clear opportunity to look at how we protect our water quality without overburdening small farmers.”)
Boozman said he believes the Biden administration is going to mount “an all-out assault” on climate policy rather than wait for the 2023 farm bill.
Boozman also repeated previous statements that he does not believe that carbon can qualify as a commodity under the Commodity Credit Corporation because the CCC Charter Act says “agricultural commodities 18 times.” Boozman said he would like to see a USDA lawyer attach a name to the position that USDA has the authority to use the CCC to fund carbon-related programs.
“I don’t think the people who drafted it would think that carbon would be part of the program,” Boozman said, adding that if carbon qualifies for funding through the CCC other things might also be eligible.
“What scares me is that they said they do,” Boozman said. “What they are saying puts you on guard.” Such thinking “shows that the end justifies the means,” just as the Obama administration did with WOTUS, he said.
“There is a finite amount of money,” Boozman said.
“Whatever we do, carbon credits has to be voluntary,” Boozman said, even though “there is talk” about attaching participation and conservation to crop insurance. The benefits of climate programs also should go to farmers, he said.
The Biden administration is “much more friendly” toward Cuba, Boozman noted, saying that he believes that Cuba should be further opened as an agricultural market. Eighty percent of what Cubans eat is imported, he said, and “even critics” ask why Cubans should not buy food from the United States.
Broadband needs to be added to the “three Rs” of infrastructure – railroads, roads and runways –because it is important to both productivity and to climate solutions, Boozman said.
In a veiled reference to the Trump administration’s large ad hoc payments to farmers, Boozman said he wants farmers to be more dependent on markets because “you can’t count” on federal programs, and reliance on them makes farm lenders concerned.
The Biden administration will push conservation, Boozman said, but it has become difficult to get people to sign up for the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program and may be more difficult now that commodity prices are up. There is a danger to taking land out of production, he said, because “it is not like the old days that the U.S. was such a dominant player.” Now the United States will lose market share to Brazil and other countries that do nothing on climate change, he explained.
Despite his criticism of the Democrats, Boozman said that he believes a lot can be accomplished if the agriculture community sticks together.
“Times are different each time you write the farm bill,” he said. “This time hopefully things will have turned up a bit.”
Boozman said he hopes the 2023 farm bill “is more of a tweaking,” but acknowledged that it could be “a significant tweaking.”
“Everyone agrees crop insurance is the underpinning of our network,” he concluded.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.