The American: An Imaginary Dustup? The Incalculable Harm of Regulation
By Blake Hurst
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Timothy Noah writing in The New Republic. A column by David Brooks. A front-page news story in the Kansas City Star. All with the same theme: The regulatory actions of the Obama administration are nothing out of the ordinary, and new regulations cannot possibly be blamed for our economic problems.
Both Noah and a December article in the Huffington Post concentrate on the dustup over particulate regulation, or the so-called dust rule. Both point out that the Environmental Protection Agency never proposed a rule regulating farm dust. Both have some fun with Republicans and farmers complaining about what the Huffington Post calls the “imaginary dust rule.” Noah calls complaints about the rule “right wing nuttery” and accuses the GOP of demagoguery. That seems a little extreme (although I should admit my own complicity in this flap: see “All Ginned Up”).
Ah, well. Political pressure may well have prevented a new and stricter rule on fugitive dust. The lesson we farmers are likely to draw is that it pays to be early and to work hard. Not only that, but our concerns are well founded. This fall, one of the largest grain elevators in this part of Missouri was closed down for several days during the height of harvest because dust (particulate) readings on the EPA monitors in the area exceeded the limits required by the present rule. The trucks turned away were not imaginary, and the wages employees lost were not Monopoly money; local farmers lost a day’s harvest because of these all-too-real regulations. But if The New Republic says complaining about tightening these regulations is “special pleading,” and if the Huffington Post tells us that the problem is a figment of our collective imaginations, then I’ll tell my neighbors to quit their bitching. Wouldn’t want to be a right-wing nut, you know.
Yep, we are just imagining these regulations. That’s what I’ll tell one of the suppliers for my farm, who runs a very small fertilizer business. He was recently fined around a third of his yearly profit for failing to correctly complete his “Risk Management Plan.” He had hired a consultant, but his consultant neglected to complete the form in the prescribed manner. Even though the form was incomplete, the information he did file filled a three-ring binder three inches thick. The owner of the business has to re-file the plan online. The instruction form for the filing is 110 pages. Timothy Noah subtitled his article “Republicans surpass their own environmental absurdity.” My friend has been operating his business, without incident, for nearly 40 years. Absurd is no doubt how he would describe the new regulatory regime, if he was asked to do so without resorting to four letter words.