Over the last four years, Texas farmers and ranchers have enjoyed generally friendly policies from the Trump administration. Now, with the Biden administration taking over, many in the state's agriculture industry are fearful of a return to the more restrictive rules and regulations of the Obama era. "We're hoping to be a part of the conversation with the Biden administration," says Gary Joiner, spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau. "There have been regulations in the past that have been very burdensome on farmers and ranchers, and we're hoping to avoid those."
Of all the Obama-era regulations, none was tougher on Texas farmers and ranchers than the "Waters of the U.S." rule or WOTUS, which allowed the federal government to regulate small streams, creeks and ditches on private property. Under the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rescinded the rule, and farmers hope it stays that way. "We're hoping the Biden administration does not go back and implement the original WOTUS rule," says Joiner. "It was, I think, one of the worst regulatory actions by the EPA we've seen in many, many years."
For now, much of the Biden EPA agenda is on hold until the new leadership is confirmed by the Senate. But Texas farmers are encouraged by comments from EPA Administrator nominee Michael Regan, who pledged to partner with agriculture interests on environmental policy. "That's the hope of farmers and ranchers," says Joiner. "They want to be at the table, they want to be part of the discussion, because they are the affected party in many cases."
Whatever happens with EPA regulations, the impact will go far beyond farmers and ranchers, to anyone who eats at a restaurant or shops at a grocery store. "There's a very small group (of producers) that's doing a wonderful job of producing for the dinner tables and for those who need agricultural products...America does it better than anyone," says Joiner.
"Now, we need a business-friendly climate. We need a government regulatory approach that is assisting with that success, and not trying to take that away."