Government red tape ties up American farmers

Farmers suffer under the burden of government over-regulation. And it doesn’t just hurt America’s fresh produce industry, the consequences stretch to the country’s overall economy. Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers will take that message to Washington, D.C., to testify at a Feb. 10 hearing before the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee chaired by Congressman Darrell Issa from California. The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EST in 2167 Rayburn.

Nassif will highlight real-world examples of how government red tape is hurting farmers. He joins seven others from industry associations, think tanks and business at Thursday’s hearing, and is the only official representing agriculture.

Nassif’s testimony centers on two examples of government regulations stifling farmers: interpretation of the Endangered Species Act and the H-2A visa or temporary agriculture guest-worker program.

California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta serves as an example of how interpretations of the Endangered Species Act hurt agriculture. During the 2009 drought, California farmers received an all-time low of only 10 percent of their promised water because of flow restrictions due to federal rules protecting fish species. Farmers could have received three times that amount that year. Federal judges called the interpretations of the law “unsupported by reasonable explanation” and “not rational nor scientifically justified,” according to a May 2010 ruling.

Under the H-2A visa program, farmers are being charged hundreds of thousands of dollars for technical violations, according to Nassif’s prepared testimony. Applications are often delayed months, resulting in adverse financial impact and crops that rot in the field.

The hearing, “Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation,” is a result of Issa’s call to the business community to name the top government regulations that get in the way of business and job creation. Issa received responses from nearly 100 companies, agriculture and industry groups including Western Growers.