Too Much Regulation Adds To Food Cost

Just this morning, I heard on the news that OPEC wants more of our energy dollars and has plans to get it. As I filled my car up with gasoline that now was over the $3.00 mark, I wondered just how much more do they really want. Even with a percentage of our fuel being ethanol, they are still getting enough to put down sod in their desert areas and turn the place into a real nice golf course. Now according to the BP Energy Outlook, OPEC, which is made up of a 12 member cartel of oil producing countries, is preparing a new age of dominance over the market. That’s a great thought for the New Year.

With fuel prices increasing daily and projected to go higher, the cost experts are also predicting inflation will once again raise its ugly head along with food prices. It always catches my attention whenever one of these reports comes out that food prices usually become a part of the discussion right off the bat. Even though we live in a country with the lowest food prices in the world, when experts expect their lattes to go up by a few cents, food gets major billing during times of inflation. It is true fuel costs will add to the cost of production, processing and delivery, but there are other things right now that are making food prices increase that OPEC is having nothing to do with. Government regulation is right in the forefront of cost causing increases in this country and the American farmer, who produces your food, has been dealing with those regulations in an up hill battle that seems to gain momentum annually by our own federal government “cartel.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one such government regulatory program that continues to add to the cost of doing business within our own country. In his address to the voting delegates of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation at their annual meeting recently, TFBF President Lacy Upchurch said, “We all support common sense regulation that protects human health, and all of us support common sense regulation that protects and conserves our natural resources, but EPA has just gotten out of hand. A few years ago, we laughed when we heard that EPA wanted to regulate cow gas. EPA wants to regulate farm dust, regulate milk tanks and require spill prevention plans, classify spray nozzles as point source pollution, threaten to penalize farmers for feeding hay in a pasture hay ring, and so on. I really believe that some at EPA get pleasure out of threats and intimidation.”

And, just what does all of this over regulation really cost? Upchurch went on to say in his address, “I recently saw a study on the impact of regulatory costs on small business that was commissioned by the Small Business Administration. The annual cost of federal regulation in the United States increased to more than $1.75 trillion in 2008. Had every U.S. household paid an equal share of the federal regulatory burden, each would have owed $15,586. Small business, defined as firms employing fewer than 20 employees, bear the largest burden of federal regulations. According to this analysis, as of 2008 small business faces an annual regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee. Again, we all know there are benefits from some regulation, but just think how over-regulation can slow and drag the economy down and actually force some businesses to close their doors.”

EPA many times does not recognize the contributions farmers return back to the land with more production from the use of less land and less loss of soil. Instead, they often present farmers with challenges that may not be accomplishable with standards based on non-true science reports.

 As American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said recently, “We need more common sense and less negativity toward production agriculture in the enforcement of the nation’s existing environmental statutes.” With the new congress maybe we can get more oversight on these agencies and make them more responsible for their actions. It is worth a try.  

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–       Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com