EPA chief: ‘Help is on the way’ for farmers

EPA chief: ‘Help is on the way’ for farmers
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The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sought to assure the agriculture industry that the agency will start operating in a way more favorable to them and the business community as a whole.

Scott Pruitt, who has led the EPA for a week, spoke to a meeting organized by the American Farm Bureau Federation minutes after President Trump signed an executive order to begin eliminating former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaJeb Bush calls out Republicans silent on Trump's Russia probe Trump launches all-out assault on Mueller probe Immigration agents planning raids next week targeting teenage gang members MORE’s Clean Water Rule, a top legislative priority for the agriculture industry.

“If you think about the issues that are particularly important to you, from the Farm Bureau perspective, the future ain’t what it used to be,” Pruitt said, quoting baseball legend Yogi Berra.

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Pruitt told attendees that under Obama, federal regulators took a “we know best” approach on issues like the environment. Pruitt contrasted that with his own intention to put more regulatory powers under state control.

“That is changing under our leadership at the EPA and President Trump’s leadership from the White House,” Pruitt said to applause. “Help is on the way.”

“I’m looking forward to the regulatory rollback to provide certainty to you,” he continued.

Under Obama, the EPA frequently clashed with major industries like fossil fuels companies and farmers. The Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the United States, was at the center of much of that fighting.

Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyLiberal group files lobbying complaint against Pruitt Trump’s budget prioritizes polluters over people Trump pulls US out of Paris deal: What it would mean MORE, Obama’s EPA head from 2013 to this past January, acknowledged in December that her agency’s relationships with rural areas were not ideal.

“I think we have not done as well as we could developing a rural strategy in cooperation with other agencies, and certainly have more presence in rural communities,” she said.

The Obama administration argued that the water rule was essential to protecting drinking water and other important water uses.

But agriculture interests said the rule did not respect their needs, and would have made major standard farming practices like digging or filling ditches subject to federal permitting.

The rule was put on a court hold in 2015, and Pruitt formally kicked off the process of repealing it after Trump’s order.

Pruitt sought to assure the agriculture leaders at the meeting that the Trump administration wants to make it easier for them to do business by rolling back many regulations.

“When you look at what we’ve dealt with over the last several years, the greatest impediment to our economic growth has been regulatory uncertainty,” he said.

“I commit to you, this is just the first step toward fixing what’s wrong with our environmental regulations.”