Smith Report 5.5.2016

A Harvest of Regulations

Growing up in rural Missouri you learn that farming is not a job, but a way of life and that American farmers are the back bone of our nation. Farmers work hard to provide the necessities and staples in our lives like food and clothing and without them our economy would come to a grinding halt. Here in Missouri, agriculture is still the number one industry and southeast and south central Missouri are the engines that power this industry.

While I was home again earlier this month I travelled across all 30 counties in our district to visit and hear the latest concerns of folks in the 8th district of Missouri. I found that there were recurring themes among the countless conversations I had in every county. Simply put, people are frustrated and angry. They are fed up with the increases to government spending, growing taxes and most of all frustrated about the mountain of White House driven regulations holding back farmers and small businesses. As a cattle farmer, small business owner, and citizen legislator, I couldn’t agree more!

The latest assault is known as the Veterinary Feed Directive Rule (VFD), a federal regulation from the US Food and Drug Administration, which is set to go into effect January 1 , 2017. This regulation will drastically impact a farmer’s ability to care for their animals by making the process of administering medicated feed and water antibiotics more complicated for producers, veterinarians and feed suppliers.

Even worse, those impacted the most by this VFD rule will not be the large integrated food producers, but the small family farms like the one I own and grew up on. A large corporate operation with veterinarians on hand may be able to handle this new burden, but the effect on small farms in accessing medicated feeds and water antibiotics could be devastating. Ultimately, the VFD regulation alone is estimated to produce over 130,000 paperwork hours on the backs of vets and farmers.

As a cattle farmer, I understand directly the impact of this burden, and it is especially concerning to me that livestock farmers and ranchers will experience the biggest effect on their day-to-day operations. This is why I filed HR 5140 which would be an outright repeal of the VFD rule, there is simply no need for it because it is just a regulation acting like a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

During my recent district travel, I spoke to a producer that told me this regulation would mean that if a dairy cow calves in the middle of the night, or during harsh weather, he would need to go and get a prescription just for milk replacer. Additionally, the new VFD rule also places a burden on veterinarians by putting them at risk of even writing a prescription if there isn’t an existing vet-client-patient-relationship making emergency situations even more prone to crisis if you can’t reach your current veterinarian.

Stories like these make it clear that regulations should not be made by people who have never stepped foot on a farm. Washington bureaucrats clearly do not know how farmers and livestock producers actually operate and that they don’t seem to care. It is important that the government does not pretend to understand farmers, rather they need to get out of the way and stop hindering our potential growth.

A strong agricultural economy is especially important to small towns and rural areas like we have in southeast and south central Missouri. American farmers already face enough obstacles, so the last thing they need is more burdensome government policy to weed through. Hopefully very soon farmers will be allowed to get back to what they do best, and our families and dinner tables will all be better off.