Traveling throughout Nebraska you will see farm equipment nearly everywhere. From tractors to center pivots, if it works on a farm or ranch, chances are Nebraskans are using it. Many of our state’s ag producers store the fuel needed to make this equipment work in above-ground tanks on their property. Often, these family farms and ranches are miles away from towns where they can refuel. The on-farm tanks are vital for running an efficient operation.
On May 10, 2013, a new EPA regulation went into effect that removed the farm exemption from fuel storage rules and began treating ag producers like oil refineries for the first time in history. Called the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, the new regulation placed onerous limitations on the size of fuel tanks on Nebraska’s farms and ranches. Using the threat of heavy fines, the SPCC rule has been forcing families to make costly and needless upgrades to their fuel storage capabilities ever since.
As a cattle rancher, I understand the negative impact this regulation has on the agriculture community. In the U.S. Senate, I’ve been working to provide Nebraska families with exemptions from this regulatory burden. Last year, I negotiated a bipartisan provision to help our farmers and ranchers, which was signed into law as part of the water infrastructure bill. The language fully exempted animal feed tanks from the SPCC rule. It also provided greater flexibility for producers with on-farm fuel storage.
Although we’ve had some success in modifying the rule, there’s more work to do to return to common-sense rule making.
That’s why I recently reintroduced the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship or “FUELS” Act. This bill provides further relief for Nebraska families with on-farm fuel storage tanks by exempting farms and ranches with 10,000 gallons or fewer of on-farm fuel storage. This exemption would apply to operations with larger storage capacities of up to 42,000 gallons, as well, so long as they have no history of fuel spills.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Nebraska Cattlemen both support this legislation. I was happy to work with them on this effort to ensure Nebraska ag producers are not harmed by this unnecessary red tape.
Many Nebraska families are facing a difficult farm economy. We have the best ag producers in the world, and I know their planning and risk management practices will see them through this strenuous time. Strong and dependable crop insurance remains one of the best tools to help ag producers plan for the future, which is why I am committed to supporting a strong crop insurance program and other farm safety net programs as Congress begins to consider the next Farm Bill.
These programs are critical risk management tools for farming operations. I will continue to promote legislation that reduces overreaching regulations and gives our producers the ability to produce safe, high-quality crops and livestock. That’s the best way to help Nebraska continue to build stronger families while feeding the world.
We also need to expand where Nebraskans can sell their products. That’s why I recently joined Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in leading a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer stressing the positive economic impact of NAFTA on Nebraska ag producers and their families.
NAFTA has increased economic growth in U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada by integrating cross-border supply chains to the benefit the economy. Over the last two decades, U.S. exports of goods and services, including agricultural and manufactured products, have tripled. While we encouraged Ambassador Lighthizer to modernize and strengthen the agreement, we reminded him that restrictions on trade with our North American partners would have dramatic economic consequences for our country, especially in agriculture states.
With fewer regulations, better stability from farm risk management programs, and more trading partners, Nebraska will continue to lead the world in agriculture production.