“Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.” I have ripped this line from the pages of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to demonstrate the severity, and ridiculousness, of a modern-day dust storm farmers and ranchers are facing today—the Wrath of the EPA. And like Ma and Pa Joad who did everything they could to save their farm from slipping away into the Dust Bowl, but ultimately lost to a force far greater than the any effort they could muster, this latest smite from Washington might just put our agricultural businesses under.
Just when you think you have heard it all, bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., come up with some hair-brained idea that leaves you scratching your head in wonderment. The Environmental Protection Agency has apparently run out of things to regulate and tax, so it has come up with new guidelines for regulating “particulate matter emissions”—more commonly known to you and me as “dust.” Now, I know what you are thinking, this just can’t be true. What kind of cockamamy scheme is this?
The EPA “Dust Police” would specifically regulate farm dust. Farmers could be required to have dust collectors on their harvesters, planters, and haying equipment. But my personal favorite is the crackdown on dust created from driving your pickup truck down a dirt or gravel road. I could not make this stuff up. The federal government wants to regulate farm dust caused by driving.
So I thought, well maybe this is just some backdoor attempt to rid America of our majestic 4-wheel-drive pickup trucks that the liberals loathe so much, and find some way to force their battery-operated toy cars on all of us. But the new proposals don’t just apply to dust created by driving. No, they are fair and balanced in their overreaching grab for authority. Farmers and ranchers are going to have to somehow limit the dust created by livestock on their property too. So, say Bessie the cow kicks up too much dust running up to your truck at feeding time—the EPA is going to fine you. You need to move your cattle to higher ground? Well, don’t do it on a dry day.
The Dust Police’s solution would be to manage dusty dirt roads with water or, get this: pave them with asphalt. This is another can of worms. Every farmer and rancher would have the “Water Police” raining down on them by the time the first drop hits the dirt. I would think the EPA is aware of the already-strained water resources facing farmers across our country. And making them pave them their roads with asphalt? Really? Aside from the sheer magnitude of this undertaking, the idea is completely unfeasible and cost-prohibitive.
The absurdity of these types of federal regulations is what makes normal, common-sense folks all across our country so frustrated with Washington. I will say that there is some good news on the horizon. We are not all out of touch with reality in Congress. My colleague, Republican Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, has filed an amendment to the Continuing Resolution to eliminate funding to the EPA for enforcing the dust regulations. I am proud to say that it passed the House of Representatives—with my overwhelming support. My hope now is that the Senate does the same.
This type of federal meddling is exactly what causes businesses to cut back, lay off workers, and in many cases, fail. These types of nonsensical, expensive regulations will finally shut the barn door on the American farmer for good. I understand that dust may seem like a serious threat to someone who has never been outside of the EPA’s marble Potomac palace. But let’s use some logic. Farmers and ranchers are the best environmentalists our country has to offer. No one respects the land and animals more than those who actually live on it, and depend on it for a living.
Instead of burying us in ridiculous regulations that do nothing to improve the quality of life or the environment, the government should look for incentives to encourage farmers to produce more, not less. We don’t need an EPA-inflicted Dust Bowl to devastate the American heartland. The EPA should head on down the road and leave this regulation in the dust. And that’s just the way it is.