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The value of public input

San Antonio recently hosted some 7,000 Farm Bureau farmers and ranchers for the organization’s 95th annual meeting.  More than 350 voting delegates, representing all 50 states, discussed and debated policies ranging from animal care to farm programs.  In a process mirrored in every state, delegates crafted a comprehensive roadmap for the coming year.

Regulation continues to be at the forefront of farmers’ minds. The Secretary of the Interior’s recent announcement the National Blueways System is being dissolved was welcome news.  Aside from poor policy, the proposal could have been featured in a reality series called “What Not to Do.”  The Department of Interior advanced a proposal to expand the system but failed to seek input from landowners who would be affected. The breakdown in communication made Obamacare look like a model program, and the lack of information sealed the proposal’s fate.

 The National Park Service is proposing management changes in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways system.  Unlike their bureaucratic cousins, National Park Service employees have put the management options out for public review and comment.  Public meetings have been held and written comments can be filed at    It’s too soon to say what the outcome will be, and many people have been vocal in their opposition to additional restrictions, but the discussion is taking place in public and, presumably, the final rule will take into account comments made by those locally who are most directly affected.

By contrast, in his State of the Union address, President Obama signaled his intent to bypass both Congress and the regulatory process by using something called Executive Orders.  This isn’t a new tactic, but it is still unnerving given the President appears poised to simply use a pen to implement his agenda.  

Farmers and ranchers are reluctant participants in the regulatory arena but have learned that sitting on the sideline isn’t an option.  Whether we are dealing with issues such as water quality, farm labor, private property rights, endangered species or renewable fuels it is important to have a well-defined process that includes public input.    

(Todd Hays, of Monroe City, is Vice President of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)

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