Legislation currently being debated in the Iowa Senate seeks to strip regulatory power from state environmental agencies and transfer it to the Department of Agriculture. The bill would give water-quality responsibilities to the Agriculture Department rather than the Department of Natural Resources.
Supporters of the bill claim that the transfer would make government spending more efficient. Currently, the bulk of water-based regulatory issues come from agricultural pollution and agricultural waste. Transferring power, supporters claim, makes sense given this overlap. Removing the regulatory middleman would lower government spending and reduce needless government bureaucracy.
In addition, supporters of the legislation have drawn on recent criticisms of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has come under fire from both farmers and legislators for hindering agricultural production. These criticisms have filtered down to the state level, leading many local legislators to decry state-based environmental regulators.
Environmental organizations have criticized the bill, saying that it reduces valuable oversight. Given that agricultural producers are frequently the ones responsible for water quality violations, they argue that it makes little sense to put those same agricultural interests in control of environmental protections. They also have pointed out that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is highly ranked in efficiency by the EPA.
The bill recently passed the Iowa House and is currently being debated by the Iowa Seante. Governor Terry Brandstad offered support for the bill and indicated he would sign it into law if passed.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer