Mere minutes after Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as the nation’s 46th President, he was already busy signing a tall stack of executive orders and directives. These new policies ranged across a broad swath of federal policy, from repealing travel bans to mandating masks on federal property.
While these first actions were many, they are far from the end of the story. The new president and his administration have been signaling there is much more to come on the regulatory front. Their biggest focus is likely to be in the area of environmental policy.
On day one, the Biden administration published a list of 114 agency actions and regulations that it will review “to tackle the climate crisis.” This massive list includes 48 items for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review.
Many of the items within EPA’s jurisdiction could impact agriculture and rural America. From the looks of it, the Biden EPA thinks almost any regulation falls under the banner of climate change. The directive charges EPA with reviewing rules on such disparate issues as drinking water, lead-based paint and bug-control products like chlorpyrifos.
Perhaps none are more impactful – or more familiar – than the rule defining “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS. Beginning in 2013, President Obama tried to expand the federal government’s jurisdiction over private lands by changing the definition of WOTUS. If he had succeeded, over 99 percent of Missouri’s land area could have been under the EPA’s thumb.
After nationwide outrage led by Farm Bureau, courts put the rule on hold. Ultimately, the Trump administration undid the WOTUS Rule and adopted reasonable definitions. We hope the Biden administration does not try to make the same mistake again, but we’ll have a close eye on their actions.
Also on Biden’s list of regulations to review is the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule. This sensible regulation laid out rules for emissions caused by electricity generation. If the Biden EPA reverses these reforms, it could have big effects on energy prices for everyday Americans.
While President Biden’s early actions show he intends to make significant changes down the road, they are on hold for now. The day after the inauguration, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain announced a temporary regulatory freeze. Klain’s memo told administration officials not to propose or issue any rules until the White House has a chance to review and approve the action.
Missouri Farm Bureau and like-minded groups will be keeping close watch on the new administration’s actions as it gets up and running. If they attempt to over-reach with their regulations, we will sound the alert.
Clean air, clean water, and a vibrant earth are vital to farmers. We can and must achieve these goals together, by working with each other to improve our environment. Imposing government regulations without regard for the people they affect is a recipe for disaster, and we must not go down that road once again.
Eric Bohl of Columbia is the director of public affairs and advocacy for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.