By Kevin Rogers, Arizona Farm Bureau President Regulation is a fact of my business life whether it’s on my agriculture production inputs or my outputs of agriculture production; regulation costs me money, just as it does any business.
I also understand and accept regulation for the public good. Regulation in the public interest cannot avoid limitations on business but regulation should not be business limiting without reasonable regulatory rationale.
Properly structured, I would even argue regulation can help create and sustain markets. Grade A milk, for example, the standard set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for interstate shipment creates a standard for consistency of product and integrity of confidence in food safety among the public.
So my colleagues - Arizona’s farmers and ranchers along with all American agriculturalists - and I attempt to work within regulatory proposals to the extent we can.
Agriculture has multiple threats if the regulatory scheme is unchecked:
- Endangered species,
- Public grazing and multiple uses of public lands,
- Air and water quality, and
- Animal welfare.
All of these are key challenges.
If an agenda develops whose real intent or end result is to put me out of business, you can expect me to use every bit of my arsenal to fight back. But if the agenda is to merge the realities if what we do on the ground with the public interest, then we can sit down and do business.
It is not easy. I have been directly involved with air quality for over 15 years, serving on the Air Quality Task Force for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and on the Best Management Practices Group for agriculture in Maricopa and now in Pinal County. Our regulatory “fortunes” on air quality have ebbed and flowed. Right now we are in a period of uncertainty, and that is always the costliest place to be in the regulatory framework.
The air quality challenge is something we have met head on. It’s an issue that is a never ending challenge. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remains vigilant for good reason, but agriculture must be constantly at the table, that in itself is a cost of doing business these days. It’s a little like “whack-a-mole.” We have to keep the dialogue going and we have to insist the uncertainty keeps getting dialed down.
Without constant dialogue and transparencies sideboards fall away and regulatory power shifts to the regulators. It is the fundamental issue of checks and balances.
Modern agriculture does more with less, with less and less invasive inputs, with fewer natural resources, with fewer impacts. And yes it is with an eye towards efficiency in improving our bottom line.
Still others who don’t know our business and presume to tell us what our business is. This creates further regulatory challenges.
It’s my job to keep advancing my economic arguments, but it is everyone’s task to use the best science available. Sometimes that works to my advantage and sometimes it does not.
Finally, regulatory costs have to be factual.
I know science only tells us what we can do within the science available; it does not tell us what we should do or what we will do. Society does that. But all parties can dialogue much better if there is some fundamental agreement as to good science.
We don’t have to be objective, but we can at least make honest efforts at fairness.
Arizona agriculture recently had its latest economic review. The economic impact numbers put this state’s agriculture at $12.4 billion. Will inappropriate regulation cause this number to decline? If you think it’s just a numbers game, think again. Every dollar this industry generates for our state is a dollar that supports businesses, employees, families and our futures.