This past week, I traveled across the state to attend community events and meetings including the Turner Country Fair, DakotaFest, and most recently, Farm Bill round tables. I relish the opportunity to attend these agriculture-centered events and hear first-hand the concerns of those working in the industry.
Like many small businesses across the state, our farmers and ranchers have operated under a cloud of uncertainty for the past few years. New unnecessary policies proposed in Washington by federal bureaucrats pose great risks to an industry that has already suffered greatly from overreaching rules and regulations. Over the course of the past two years, we have seen proposals from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor spilt milk from dairy farms and even regulate "fugitive dust" on farmland.
These short-sighted rules and regulations are not just coming from the EPA. Some analysts have noted that new rules from the recently-passed Dodd-Frank Act may require grain elevators, feed mills, and processing plants to record all phone conversations. This type of unnecessary requirement is yet another piece of red tape on our agriculture industry that will make our producers less competitive.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently sought comment on a draft proposal to require Commercial Driver's Licenses (CDL) for farmers and ranchers operating tractors and other agriculture equipment on public roads. I spearheaded a bipartisan opposition letter with 21 of my Senate colleagues signing on in opposition to this proposal. Shortly after receiving our letter, the DOT publicly stated they would not be implementing any new CDL requirements.
While some of the Administration's proposals have been abandoned after people across the country expressed strong opposition-notably the DOT's CDL draft proposal-these proposals are alarming to most of us in the Midwest who continue to be the targets of such policies. Instead of regulating our farmers and ranchers out of business, the federal government ought to be looking to promote an atmosphere that fosters job creation.
The agriculture industry greatly contributes to the overall economic success of our state and nation. I will continue to push back against overreaching federal regulations and push for the passage of policies that help create jobs, including the long-delayed Free Trade Agreements currently being held up by President Obama.