First Quarter and Into the Second 2022 Regulatory Comment Review: A Flurry of Letter Writing
The Arizona Farm Bureau Federation (AZFB) regularly prepares regulatory comments in response to federal and state agency proposed rules, requests for information, and other agency actions. This year there was an uptick in the number of regulatory comments AZFB submitted in the first quarter of 2022 with 11 comments letters submitted as compared to 6 last year. Below is a summary of the regulatory dockets that AZFB has engaged in thus far in 2022.
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings – AZFB’s comments noted that given the various programs and standards already in place to address heat injury and illness prevention the advanced notice of rulemaking by OSHA is unnecessary. Instead, more effort should be put into promoting a better understanding of current laws, regulations, and programs for both employers and employees. The comments also noted a single heat standard or temperature does not consider variability in temperature and heat across the U.S and that there are a number of factors outside of an employers’ control that can affect an individual’s sensitivity to heat.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) – Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf – AZFB’s comments opposed the FWS proposal to revise the target population of Mexican gray wolves that would essentially create a population floor with no cap or upper limits. The comments also noted the following: our opposition to the proposal of temporarily restricting take provisions and thus limiting the ability to protect livestock and domestic animals from wolf depredation and attack; the need to include and compensate for indirect losses caused by wolf presence; and maintaining the designation of the Mexican gray wolf experimental population as nonessential.
Arizona Department of Game and Fish (AZGF) – Proposed Hunt Guidelines for Fall 2023 through Spring 2028 Hunting Season – AZFB’s comments noted the important role AZGF plays in managing the state’s wildlife, including predators, as excessive populations can be destructive to both farmland and livestock. The comments also raised a question of concern regarding the Department’s proposal to remove a provision allowing for additional spring bear seasons.
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration – Adverse Effect Wage Rate Methodology for the Temporary Employment of H-2A Nonimmigrants in Non-Range Occupations in the United States – AZFB’s comments incorporated by reference an analysis conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), which noted the proposal by DOL would result in significant additional labor costs for Arizona farmers who use the H-2A program.
National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) - Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Implementation – AZFB’s comments incorporated by reference the comments submitted by AFBF, which answer specific questions posed by the NTIA related to the development and implementation of new broadband programs. AFBF’s responses addressed the questions for which the organization has policy and is relevant to our advocacy efforts regarding broadband.
Environment Protection Agency, Revised Definition of Waters of the United States – AZFB’s comments noted our strong support of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) and explained our concerns with the proposed rule, which would revert to definitions of WOTUS that were unclear and test the limits of federal authority. Our comments also urged the agency to pause its rulemaking until the Supreme Court has had a chance to make a decision in a current case that is reviewing the proper scope of jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA) – Cage-Free Egg Rulemaking – AZFB’s comments outlined the organization’s reasons opposing the proposed rule mandating cage-free egg production including among others the rulemaking does not reflect objective best management practices, exceeds the authority of the AZDA, and lacks an adequate economic impact evaluation.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services – Threatened Species Status with Section 4(d) Rule for the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – AZFB’s comments opposed the proposal to list the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl because a majority of its range is in Mexico and the listing places an undue burden for conservation in the U.S. However, should FWS move forward with its proposal, AZFB noted the 4(d) rule does provide those impacted by the listing with the flexibility needed to effectively implement conservation, restoration, and habitat improvements.
U.S. Department of State – Schedule of Fees for Consular Services; Nonimmigrant and Special Visa Fees - AZFB’s comments incorporated by reference to an analysis conducted by AFBF and noted our concern for farmers who use the H-2A program and their ability to absorb the increased costs of obtaining labor due to increased visa fees. The comments also noted that the Department of State did not provide a reasonable explanation for increasing visa fees or how the additional funds would improve services.
U.S. Department of Interior - Request for Information (ROI) to Inform Interagency Efforts to Develop the Stewardship Atlas – AZFB’s comments noted that if the 30 x 30 initiative focuses on lands outside of those already managed by the federal, state, and tribal our members will be further hindered to use private land to the benefit of our state. The comments also noted the following: our opposition to any effort by the federal government to purchase state lands to meet the 30 x 30 initiative; the need to recognize conservation practices and programs already implemented by farmers and ranchers; recommended the Atlas account for regulations and programs that discourage conservation on federal lands, thus recognizing conservation efforts that would be in place, but are not due to delays outside of the control of lessees; and that the Atlas recognize the benefits of working lands and rangeland health actives and projects.
Arizona Department of Water Resources – Proposed legislation to create the Arizona Water Authority – AZFB’s comments shared observations and perspectives regarding legislation that would create the Arizona Water Authority. The comments noted several areas of concern where additional guardrails are needed to ensure that a new water entity is effective in serving the needs of all water users.
Environmental Protection Agency – Proposed Interim Decision for Several Pesticides – Iprodione – AZFB’s comments responded to EPA’s proposal to limit all outdoor uses, including agricultural uses, to one application per year. Outreach to those familiar the products use in Arizona determined that the proposal would not inhibit current practices.
Food and Drug Administration – Standards for Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding Produce for Human Consumption Relating to Agricultural Water – AZFB’s comments supported and incorporated by reference those prepared by AFBF. The comments highlighted various areas of the proposal that needed additional clarification and guidance related to the proposed rule that creates a pre-harvest agricultural water assessment, mitigation measures, and other revisions.
Bureau of Land Management – Use of Motorized Vehicles and Aircrafts in the Management of Wild Horses and Burros – AZFB joined a coalition of Western State Farm Bureaus to express collective support for the continued use of motorizes vehicles and aircraft to manage wild horse and burro populations in the West.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) – Draft Recovery Plan for the Mexican Wolf, Second Revision – A second round of revisions was made to the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan in response to a court order directing the FWS to add site-specific management actions to address the threat of human-caused mortality. AZFB’s comments addressed specific management actions impacting livestock producers including outreach efforts and promoting flexibility with for conflict avoidance practices.
For more information about a specific comment letter, contact Ana Kennedy Otto at firstname.lastname@example.org.