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NACo Agriculture & Rural Affairs Report - 2011 Legislative Conference


Posted Date: 
March 31, 2011
Contact: 
Kathy Bessette, Hill County Commissioner

Karen Cobel, consultant for the United Soybean Board and member of the NACo Green Government Program, was the speaker for the Agriculture subcommittee.  She displayed  several samples of bio-products including hand cleaners, window cleaners, carpet backing, and a product the company guarantees will out perform WD-40!

The Rural Development subcommittee heard an excellent presentation on dust regulations by former Culbertson resident, Tamara Thies, Chief Environmental Counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.  The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to tighten up the current particulate matter standards, as low as twice as stringent as the current standard.  This could infringe upon everyday events such as cars driving down dirt roads, county road department maintenance, and agricultural practices that sustain our local economies.  Dust levels found in arid climates, such as many western counties experience, have a difficult time meeting the current standards let alone more stringent regulations.  Thies stated that there is no adverse health effect from exposure to rural fugitive dust at the current levels, and if more stringent standards are approved, rural America would be thrown into non-attainable levels.  To stay involved, watch HR 872 and contact our congressmen and governor asking them to urge the EPA to retain the current dust standards.

Bob Fogel, NACo Senior Legislative Director and staffer for the Transportation Committee, spoke to the group about the status of Essential Air Service.  EAS has been extended by the House (the 17th short-term extension), and Fogel stated the program will sunset in 2014, thus eliminating the EAS program to any state/area that has less than 10 boardings per day or airline services less than 90 miles away.    Several Montana communities are recipients of EAS.

Jack Guzewich, Senior Advisor for Environmental Health, Food and Drug Administration, spoke to the Food Safety Subcommittee about the new food safety law.  He stated that 48 million Americans get sick from food-borne illnesses and 128,000 are hospitalized every year.  Check out the websites for more information: www.fda.gov and www.foodsafety.gov.

The Agriculture and Rural Affairs Steering Committee passed three resolutions and denied a resolution from New Hampshire that would support the eligibility of county-owned and operated farms for federal farm programs. A resolution opposing cuts to USDA Rural Development Programs in FY 2011 and FY 2012 passed.  A resolution in support of educated pesticide use, in which the proposed policy is consistent with existing NACo policy that states local streets, gutters, and human-made ditches should not be considered waters of the U.S., also passed.  The resolution also "opposes EPA’s national Pesticides Permit program as long as it requires National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits for pesticide use in (and around) county streets, gutters, and ditches.  Such expansion of authority preempts state and local government authority and creates unfunded mandates.”

The second half of the steering committee was a joint meeting on Rural Broadband with the NACo Telecommunications and Technology Steering Committee.  The two committees jointly passed a resolution in support of the White House Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative.

Kathy Bessette | bessettek@co.hill.mt.us | (406)398-5381