Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, committee chairman, kicked off the lengthy hearing by telling Jackson the “regulatory agenda of the EPA” is the “top priority for nearly every” committee member. “The reason is simple: many members of this committee believe that over the past two years the EPA has pursued an agenda seemingly absent of the consequences for rural America and production agriculture. Your agency is creating regulations and policies that are burdensome, overreaching, and that negatively affect jobs and rural economies.

“Just a few examples: EPA has proposed zero-tolerance standards for pesticide spray drift; initiating action to stiffen the current regulatory standard on farm dust, which would make tilling a field, operating a feed lot or driving a farm vehicle nearly impossible; and an unprecedented re-evaluation of the popular weed control product, atrazine. In 2006, the EPA completed a 12-year review (of atrazine) involving 6,000 studies and 80,000 public comments. Yet, one of the first orders of business of the Obama administration was to start over after an article appeared in the New York Times.”

Jackson told the committee the EPA was not pursuing the regulation of dust, spray drift and nutrients. But Lucas asked if Jackson believes the EPA has the authority to regulate those things.

“Yes, sir,” admitted Jackson. “Dust would be under the Clean Air Act under particulate matter standards. Nutrients are under the Clean Water Act, certainly. Spray drift, through FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) labeling – which is where this issue was raised. EPA’s decisions on what to put on the label has a tremendous (impact) on that sector.”

Regarding the regulation of dust, Texas Rep. Michael Conaway was dismissive saying Texans worry that the EPA plans to oversee something natural and ubiquitous in the state. Conaway recounted a recent drive through pastureland in his home state. Wind was blowing 40 to 50 miles per hour and blown dirt – “excuse me ‘course particulate matter’” said Conaway, mockingly – was so thick he had to slow the car.