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Agriculture industry disappointed in environmental review changes

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On Tuesday, the Biden Administration reinstated a rule that will require federal agencies to evaluate all relevant environmental impacts — including those associated with climate change — during environmental reviews. This rulemaking is the first step in a two-phase approach that Council on Environmental Quality is taking to reform the regulations that guide the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act. Over the coming months, CEQ will be proposing a Phase 2 NEPA rulemaking that will provide further changes to the environmental review processes.

However, those in the agriculture industry point to the backward motion of the announcement. 

“When it comes to federal regulations, ranchers are often caught in the middle of political whiplash, and this CEQ process is no exception,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Executive Director of Natural Resources and Public Lands Council Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “Livestock producers and land managers need regulatory certainty and consistency. By returning to a pre-2020 standard, this rule returns environmental analysis to a failed model that industry and government have long agreed is woefully inadequate and inefficient. This failed model will stall important environmental projects, delay critical infrastructure improvements, and impede progress made as part of ongoing NEPA processes.”

In addition to their role in water, transportation, and conservation projects nationwide, NEPA regulations play a foundational role in all activities on federal lands. Over the past several decades, NEPA processes have become inefficient and the source of an immense amount of regulatory red tape and uncertainty as producers renew grazing permits, improve rangeland, and participate in USDA voluntary conservation programs.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall also commented on the revisions.

“AFBF is disappointed that the Biden administration has decided to reverse commonsense reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act,” Duvall said. “Farmers and ranchers share the goal of caring for the natural resources they’ve been entrusted with and were pleased that the updated 2020 regulations allowed them to protect the environment while meeting the demands of a growing nation.

“Continued challenges from the pandemic, supply chain issues and the drought in the West are impacting farmers, ranchers and the American public in the form of increased food and fuel prices. The situation will now be made worse by the return to a slow and cumbersome NEPA review process that, in many cases, takes years to complete.

“President Biden has also made improving the nation’s infrastructure a priority, and a modernized NEPA review process would help deliver projects to communities across the country. Safe roads, waterways and railways and expanded rural broadband access are crucial to the success of rural America. Those, too, are now at risk because of outdated regulations. We urge the administration to stop moving backward and keep focused on working with farmers and ranchers to advance sound, science-based and practical conservation goals that protect our resources while creating opportunities for agriculture as well as every sector of the economy.”

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