The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3158, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act (FUELS Act), sponsored by rice-district Rep. Rick Crawford, (R-Ark.).

The legislation would modify the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule by raising its exemption levels for fuel storage capacity to better reflect the spill risk and financial resources of farms.

Last year, EPA said it wouldn't begin rule enforcement for some farms until May 2013. During yesterday's debate, Crawford said the legislation is necessary "because the existing regulations are not only burdensome to small farmers — they are unenforceable." He said that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the current regulations "would bring more than 70 percent of farms into the SPCC regulatory net. This is more than a million and a half farms in the SPCC regulatory net next year."

(For more, see: FUELS Act protects farmers
 from EPA mandates)

Crawford's bill would adjust upward the SPCC exemption level for a single tank to 10,000 gallons. The aggregate level on a farm would be increased to 42,000 gallons to allow self-certification. The proposal also would place a greater degree of responsibility on the farmer to self-certify compliance if the exemption level is exceeded.

USA Rice Federation strongly supports Rep. Crawford's legislation and has played a longtime industry leadership role in working with EPA and Congress to minimize the rule's impact on rice producers.