June 25, 2015
Distinguished members of the EPA:
I would like to thank you for being here today to listen to our point of view, hopefully reconsider your position, and follow the law.
My name is Guy Mills. Our family farm has been operating in Nebraska for 138 years. Prior to that, we operated land in Wisconsin and Ohio. My sons are the sixth generation to operate farming land in Nebraska. Our family operation is a cow/ calf operation, grain operation, and we are ethanol investors. Today, I am here representing my family’s operation interest in grain, livestock and ethanol investment, the numerous corn farmers in this country, as well as to testify on behalf of the young farmers involved in agriculture and those who may someday want to enter the industry. Their future depends on your decision.
You have heard many comments today, so I will try to avoid repeating those comments, focusing instead on information you may not have heard.
Since our country’s inception there have been a few government initiatives which have been prominent. Namely the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, Emancipation Proclamation, Homestead Act, and the Renewable Fuel standard. I must congratulate our policy makers for enacting the RFS as it has been extremely successful for rural America and those industries connected with the agriculture industry.
Agriculture can be defined as an industry of overproduction and low prices. As a result of this over production our government has formulated various policies over several decades. After the Great Depression the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 was brought into law with the express purpose of reducing supply to increase farm gate prices of commodities. One such example of reducing supply occurred in 1934 when the USDA issued Smiley Hayes of my hometown of Ansley Nebraska, a 30 -06 rifle and boxes of shells, with orders to shoot healthy livestock such as cattle and hogs. The rationale was if you had three head of livestock and shot one of them the other two would be worth more money. This was a dramatic and drastic policy in a dire time in agriculture. The cattle were skinned and the carcasses were buried in a pit with quicklime by the railroad tracks near Ansley. My Great Grandfather during this same time shipped cattle to Omaha only to receive a bill back from the commission company as the sale proceeds did not cover the trucking bill. During our 138 years of family operation in Nebraska, four banks with which we done business with failed , due entirely to low farm prices. There have also been two land retirement programs in an attempt to reduce production and raise prices. These were the soil bank and the conservation reserve programs.
The supply restriction lasted for several years from essentially 1933 through 2005 when the RFS was enacted. Every Secretary of Agriculture during this time was plagued with the problem of how to raise farm gate prices. Every year during this period USDA would try to determine how much set aside would be needed for the crop. Some years it was 5%, 8%, 10 % and in 1983 was in as high as 50%. That attempt in 1983 to control supply was deemed a disaster as drought hit .It was called the payment in kind or PIK year. The Renewable Fuel Standard changed all that.
During my college days I had the distinct pleasure of researching information for UNL Ag Econ department. This was a result of remarks of then State Senator Loren Schmidt, the person who coined the phrase gasohol. The econ department did not like his comments as he returned from South America and informed everyone how crops were being turned into fuel. The research they asked me to do found an interesting remark from John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil who commented over 100 years ago about the benefits of Agriculture in the production of energy. The irony is… Big oil is lobbying you today against the very idea of its founder. Other information collected included Adolf Hitler’s comments to his scientists during the end of the war as his army was running out of fuel. He instructed his scientists to make fuel out of anything or else. The or else was that he would execute them as well as their families. The result was finding out fuel could be made from anything that has carbon in it. These same scientists, fearing war reparations after the war fled to South America and established the ethanol industry there over 60 years ago. That is the reason South America is so far ahead of us. It is absolutely ludicrous for those protestors outside this room today to worry about their engines as South America has been using this for decades with no problems. I might add the corn industry talks about fermentable starch to increase ethanol yield. I could however mow your grass and make fuel, it just might not be as efficient. It was also learned any nation which does not secure its energy source in a time of war may lose the war. This may be one reason America won World War II as the German tanks ran out of fuel at the Battle of the Bulge.
I would like to address the concern others had and have testified against the RFS. One such example is the food versus fuel myth. A local grocery store owner in Broken Bow Nebraska was extremely vocal in his opposition to the RFS in 2012. He made claims during the drought of 2012 the ethanol mandate was the reason the prices of groceries increased. Last month he admitted to me, after corn has dropped by half and in response to a recent Wall Street Journal article that in fact there is no correlation between the price of corn and groceries and the RFS was truly a good program. I ask each one of when you buy your groceries and knowing what you have read in comments and with the dramatic price decline seen in corn if you think there is a correlation between the RFS and food prices. The upside of low prices in corn farming is that it has finally put an end to the myth ethanol has increased the price of food. I would point out the magic of the RFS is creating wealth without raising food prices. Again you have heard many comments today, but I would like you to remember and take back to Washington this remark so again I will repeat it. The magic of the RFS is creating wealth without raising food prices.
You have heard negative comments from cow calf producers about ethanol .The reality is quite different as to what has actually occurred in the areas where cattle are produced.
Herd liquidation during drought has been a major problem for a cow calf operation in this country. There have been major droughts in Nebraska during the late 1880’s, 1930’s, 1950’s, 1970’s, 2000, 2008, and 2012. During this time many cows were slaughtered due to the lack of feed. The exception was the drought period of 2008 and 2012. The reason for the exception was the advent of the ethanol industry due to RFS.
Texas lost 500000 cows in 2012 compared to Nebraska losing 78000 head. The precipitation was similar in both areas, the number of cows were similar in both areas at the start of the drought. If you would look at what counties in each state lost cows and the proximity of the ethanol plants you would soon see a relationship as those herds which had close proximity to ethanol plants were able to be kept intact. The distillers products from ethanol plants were used to mix with low quality feed products to produce a great feed source. The Sandhills of Nebraska used rushes, a non-palatable plant found along lakes to mix with distillers to produce an exceptionally great feed source. Our farming operation used cornstalks while others used wheat straw. The irony is the very people who made negative comments to you were the ones who used the RFS to keep their cow numbers intact. Today they are realizing record profits while Texas tries to rebuild their herds.
It must be noted a profit in agriculture will be needed to use technology and innovation to feed the world’s population. Without a profit in agriculture, which your decision could render as a possibility, no investment in technology or innovation could be made and yields will suffer as a result.
There are consequences of your actions of messing with the RFS. RIN values which have been outlined to you today have been impacted. The human side of this are the younger operators who are leveraged in their operations and will face severe economic turmoil as a result of what you are doing. Two banks in Kearney Nebraska informed me the breakeven on the Platte bottom to be around 4.6 a bushel for corn. The market has been substantially lower than this for a period of time. Why do you think there are so many FFA students here today? These teenagers are usually interested in the opposite sex but today they are in a somber mood for they realize the importance your decision has on their very course in life. Farmers however are expendable as history has proven. If there are enough farmers who lose money, then there may be banks which will get into trouble. This is dependent of course on how long losses will occur. The most profitable time in American agriculture was 1910-1914. By 1918 a few banks got into trouble. The 1980’s depression in agriculture saw banks go broke. This was solved by the CRP program which had 60 dollar per acre payments which at a 10 percent interest rate capitalized land at 600 dollars an acre stabilizing immediately the collateral positions of banks.
No second generation biofuels will be developed. This could have been an enormous opportunity to create wealth in rural America as I seen firsthand the benefits of raising switch grass to produce fuel when a seed business was established in the 1980’s to sell seed to farmers retiring land with the CRP.
The price of corn is determined by the last 500 million bushels produced not the first 14 billion bushels. Any increase to this last 500 million bushel will substantially reduce prices. The dilemma you have created is an increase in supply which brings about a reduction in prices in an environment where there is no supply controls to adjust ending inventory or money in the budget for a farm program to help farmers with low prices. A buildup of ending inventory will occur until the working capital is depleted in agriculture and farmer’s backs are against the wall. Then less acres will be planted to match supply with demand.
Agriculture has responded to what our government has always wanted us to do. The result has been cheap food for the nation to use which allowed for a higher standard of living. We only want you to do what the RFS originally intended.
Yesterday you visited an ethanol plant. I commend you for this. Today I invite you to my farm in Nebraska to learn how the RFS has impacted rural America and how the livestock sector is inexorably linked to ethanol. In addition to the previous mention of the benefit of a cow herd being able to be kept intact, there have been several economic benefits seen such as higher conception rates, conceptions within the first cycle of a cow, reduced death loss at weaning due to the calves eating instead of balling for their mothers all as a result of feeding distillers. These attributes could be better explained by your visit to see firsthand how the Golden Triangle which is corn ethanol and livestock is truly beneficial to agriculture.
Now I might add I got out of bed at 2:00 am this morning to come here so it is obvious this is important to me. I would like to drive fast and speed home but the law does not allow me to do so. If one does not follow the law or only picks and chooses which ones to obey, then anarchy will follow. I ask the EPA to follow the law.
Thank you for your time.
By Dave McCracken to The Omaha World-Herald
The writer is president of the Nebraska Cattlemen.
In Nebraska we chuckle knowing there are more cattle that call our state home than there are people. However, it is no joke how important Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is to our state.
Trade is vital to the success of Nebraska agriculture. Trade maintains strong demand and supports prices for our agricultural products, keeping the rural economy strong.
Nebraska ranks fifth among the 50 states in the value of its agricultural exports. The export market accounts for $350 in value per beef animal and an additional $54 in value for every hog sold in Nebraska.
Plus, every other row of soybeans and one out of every five rows of corn in Nebraska is exported internationally in raw or value-added form. Every dollar in agricultural exports also generates $1.22 in economic activity; this amount increases to $1.42 for high-value agricultural products.
To maintain these strong numbers and continue to grow demand, we need to remain competitive in foreign markets, free from high-tariff walls and non-tariff barriers.
The U.S. import market is one of the world’s most open economies, but we need to ensure we level the playing field in other foreign markets to capitalize on growing demand. Trade agreements are the most effective way to eliminate these barriers.
In order to negotiate the best agreement for the U.S. economy, our trade negotiators and trading partners need a clear signal that the deals they negotiate will be presented to Congress for an up-or-down vote.
That is where TPA, or “Fast Track” as it is sometimes called, plays a critical role. TPA sets the parameters and goals for the United States in trade negotiations and requires the executive branch to seek approval from Congress before finalizing terms. Once the terms are finalized, TPA requires public notice of the text for 60 days and puts a time frame on Congress to vote, with the understanding that any agreement will receive an up-or-down vote.
Without that assurance, Congress could change the negotiated terms and our negotiators would be unable to get the best offers from foreign governments. TPA ensures the U.S. has the credibility to conclude the best deal possible at the negotiating table.
Congress has a vital role in both giving direction for future trade agreements and ratifying these agreements, but the process must be done in a way that facilitates trade, not hinders these agreements with political posturing and partisan infighting.
Amendments presented in the House and Senate committee process on TPA show why it is important Congress present these expectations prior to reaching an agreement on future trade agreements. Amendments were presented that had no connection to trade, no connection to breaking down tariff walls. No agreement can be reached if Congress can amend and renegotiate trade deals after the fact.
In countries where the U.S. has existing trade agreements, agricultural exports have grown substantially. Opening markets promotes job growth, stimulates rural economic activity and increases farm income.
Right now several important trade agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, are waiting for TPA approval to move forward. The countries represented in the Trans-Pacific Partnership account for nearly 40 percent of the world economy alone.
Without TPA, the U.S. will quickly fall behind in our competitiveness overseas. Other countries with strong agricultural markets are actively working to secure these agreements for their individual countries and producers. There are over 260 preferential trade agreements worldwide, only 20 of which involve the U.S.
Nebraska agriculture needs this TPA legislation to remain competitive in the world economy.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this piece reflect the opinions of the following organizations: Nebraska Agri-Business Association, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Corn Growers, Nebraska Ethanol Board, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Grain and Feed Association, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Producers and Nebraska Pork Producers.
One of the most successful energy policies ever enacted in the United States, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has laid the foundation for the domestic biofuels industry. The RFS has helped generate jobs, revive rural economies, reduce oil imports, lower gasoline prices, reduce air pollution, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
On December 19, 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was signed into law. This legislation amends the RFS by growing it to 36 billion gallons in 2022. By doing so, the legislation seizes on the potential that renewable fuels offer to reduce foreign oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions and provide meaningful economic opportunity across this country — especially in rural America, putting America firmly on a path toward greater energy stability and sustainability.
Each year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues RFS rulemakings to determine the volume obligations for the RFS. For the first time in the history of the RFS, the EPA lowered the statue’s volume obligations for corn ethanol—after corn growers answered the call to grow more than enough corn to meet all needs. Tell your Member of Congress to protect the RFS and create stability for a program that effectively reduces our dependence on foreign fossil fuels.
Click on the “Don’t Gut the RFS” icon below to submit your comments to the EPA!
I am pleased to share with you several short video conversations between Dr. Julie Goodman and Dr. Jim Bus.
With more than 40,000 studies published on 2,4-D, we are fortunate to have experts like Dr. Goodman and Dr. Bus who can explain how 2,4-D can be used safely according to label direction.
For 7 decades 2,4-D has been used to protect crops, lawn & turf, and forests from invasive weeds in 89 countries. Farmers all over the world rely on 2,4-D to improve crop quality, lower production costs, and improve crop yields. I invite you to forward these videos to your friends, peers, and colleagues.
With sincere appreciation,
Jim Gray Executive Director Industry Task Force II on 2,4-D Research Data
70 years ago, 2,4-D was discovered by Dr. Franklin D. Jones.
Today, after 7 decades of scientific study, it is approved for use in 89 countries with over 100 label uses and dozens more studies published every year.2,4-D is a selective herbicide, which means it only targets invasive weeds that are causing damage, harming crop yields.
2,4-D plays an important role in protecting crops, improving agricultural yields, reducing the risk of invasive and poisonous species, protecting wildlife habitats, and protecting infrastructure. While improving food production and reducing food costs are what 2,4-D is best known for, environmental benefits include decreased soil erosion and decreased greenhouse gases through reduced soil tillage.
About Dr. James Bus Dr. Bus has over 35 years of toxicology experience focused on research and evidence-based literature analyses informing potential health risks associated with chemical and pesticide exposures. He has over 120 research and review publications and has received both the Achievement Award and Founder’s Award from the Society of Toxicology in recognition of his research and leadership in toxicology.
About Dr. Julie Goodman Dr. Goodman is an epidemiologist, a board certified toxicologist, and principal at Gradient, an environmental consulting firm. She is also currently an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Prior to joining Gradient, she was a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Goodman lives with her husband and four-year-old daughter in Massachusetts.
- NCGA is deeply concerned that the scope, reach and effect of the final Clean Water Act waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule is far too broad as matter of law and good policy, leading to major problems and concerns for farmers.
- While it is clear that there have been some changes made in an effort to improve the rule as it applies to farmers, these changes only partially work. At the same time, other changes have been made that make the rule significantly worse. With respect to other critical provisions, they were problems for farmers in the proposal and they remain problems in the final rule.
Concerns with the rule:
- Prairie potholes – The final rule adds an entirely new provision, declaring that for the purposes of jurisdictional determinations, the prairie potholes (as well as Carolina and Delmarva bays, pocosins, western vernal pools, and Texas coastal prairie wetlands) within a watershed can be assumed to be “similarly situated” and therefore all found to be jurisdictional if these potholes collectively have a “significant nexus” to the jurisdictional water at the lower end of the watershed that drains it. The Agencies defined very broadly in the final rule what significant nexus is, and state that only one of the several elements of this definition need to be found to make the nexus significant. Given this, it seems inevitable that most if not all of the prairie potholes and the other features in this category will be WOTUS.
- Tributaries – The definition of tributary is largely unchanged and it still relies on observations of a so-called bed, bank, and Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM). These things can be seen even in features without ordinary flow. The Agencies know that term OHWM is ambiguous and it is applied inconsistently. This means that drainage features with water in them only after it rains or for a few weeks can be claimed as WOTUS. Furthermore, the Agencies have been known to assert the past existence of indicators of these features at a location, and assert jurisdiction over the feature since it once met the definition.
- Erosional features – The final rule modifies the proposed rule by using the term “erosional features” to refer to gullies and rills, and these are excluded from being WOTUS. But the Agencies go on to say that erosional features are not excluded where they exhibit bed, banks and OHWM. They say that gullies, for example, can exhibit these features and would be jurisdictional. In other words, it appears they have excluded erosional features but then told the field they can be included if they observe the highly ambiguous bed, bank and OHWM features. It appears that erosional features can be easily recaptured as WOTUS through a decision in the field.
- Grass Waterways – The final rule’s erosional features’ exclusion includes a new item not in the proposed rule; grass waterways that are “lawfully constructed.” Counterintuitively, in their attempt to exclude grass waterways, it seems likely that the final rule will end up leading to a requirement that a federal Clean Water Act permit will be needed to construct one. The rule’s discussion of what “lawfully constructed” means states that “most commonly” this will mean that the grass waterway was constructed according to a federal Clean Water Act permit. Such permits are only needed in jurisdictional waters, though, leading one to conclude that in the Agencies’ view the working presumption is that the erosional feature in which a grass waterway would be built is otherwise a tributary (with a bed, bank and ordinary high water mark) and categorically a WOTUS.
- Adjacency and normal farming – The final rule curtails the proposed rules’ basically limitless application of the floodplain concept to find encompassed waters as WOTUS. It does this by defining “neighboring” as being either within 100 feet of a jurisdictional water, or within the 100-year floodplain of a jurisdictional water and not more than 1,500 feet from such water. While this is still very aggressive in its scope, it is an improvement of the possibly limitless standard in the proposed rule.
The final rule goes one step further by adding that “waters” in which “normal” farming, ranching or silvicultural practices under Clean Water Act Section 404(f) are being carried out cannot be found categorically jurisdictional. This would exclude from categorical jurisdiction isolated wetlands and wetspots (not captured under the prairie pothole provisions above) in which farming is taking place. This is a positive development. Unfortunately, to qualify for this exclusion for such wet areas, the farmer will likely have to go to the Corps of Engineers and get a determination that the area and practices in it qualify for 404(f) normal farming exemption. In practice in many locations, the Corps is known to grant the 404(f) exemption very grudgingly. At a minimum, it introduces bureaucratic difficulties, uncertainties and risks that would not be there had the rule simply excluded these farmed features altogether. Yet, this change in the final rule is an improvement over the proposed rule.
- Ditches – This change is likely small in its practical application to farming. The final rule modifies the discussion of the proposed rule’s exclusion of certain ditches. Exempted are ditches with 1) ephemeral flow that are not a relocated tributary or excavated in a tributary; 2) ditches with intermittent flow that are not a relocated tributary, excavated in a tributary, or drain wetlands; and 3) ditches that do not flow, either directly or through another water, into a jurisdictional water. Many drainage features in farm fields are former ephemeral or intermittent streams that have been improved and are maintained for drainage purposes. While some roadside and field-side ditches in farm country will be excluded under this provision, when field-side or roadside ditches convey drainage from a former ephemeral stream in a field improved for drainage, or from a field’s erosional feature that is deemed to have a bed, bank and OHWM (see above), they do not qualify for the exclusion. To the extent that this is common in an area, the ditch exclusion has limited value.
- Puddles – The final rule adds an exclusion for “puddles” saying that the Agencies didn’t think they were included before, and want to make that clear. Puddles are very small depressions in the ground that hold water in them for a short period after it rains.
The final rule excludes:
- Waste treatment systems, including ponds or lagoons designed to meet the requirements of the CWA;
- Prior converted cropland;
- Certain ditches: (i) ditches with ephemeral flow that are not a relocated tributary or excavated in a tributary; (ii) ditches with intermittent flow that are not a relocated tributary, excavated in a tributary, or drain wetlands; (iii) ditches that do not flow, either directly or through another water, into an (a)(1) through (3) water;
- Artificially irrigated areas that would revert to dry land if application of water ceases;
- Artificial, constructed lakes and ponds created in dry land (e.g., farm and stock watering ponds, irrigation ponds, settling basins, fields flooded for rice growing, log cleaning ponds, or cooling ponds);
- Artificial reflecting pools or swimming pools created in dry land;
- Small ornamental waters created in dry land;
- Water filled depressions created in dry land incidental to mining or construction activity, including pits excavated for obtaining fill, sand, or gravel that fill with water;
- Erosional features, including gullies, rills, and other ephemeral features that do not meet the definition of tributary, non-wetlands swales, and lawfully constructed grassed waterways;
- Groundwater, including groundwater drained through subsurface drainage systems;
- Stormwater control features constructed to convey, treat, or store stormwater that are created in dry land; and
- Wastewater recycling structures constructed in dryland; detention and retention basins built for wastewater recycling; and water distributary structures built for wastewater recycling.
- Waters that meet the exclusions are not “waters of the U.S.,” even if they otherwise fall within one of the categories in (a)(4) through (8) of the rule.