Senate Acts on Ag Exports, Oil Spill Rule

5/17/2013 2:11:52 PM

Agriculture got a boost this week with the Senate’s passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The measure would authorize new projects for flood protection, port improvements and upgrades to the nation’s aging locks and dams infrastructure. In a bonus for farmers, the Senate added an amendment to the bill that would help provide relief from EPA’s oil spill regulations.

Passage of the WRDA was a strategic action goal for Farm Bureau as the measure moves agriculture a step closer to water transport upgrades needed to boost the nation’s economic growth associated with agriculture commodity exports. More than 95 percent of agriculture exports and imports move through U.S. harbors, and more than 60 percent of grain grown by farmers for export is transported inland via waterways. 

Farmers got an extra boost from the Senate’s adoption of an amendment that would provide regulatory relief to farmers dealing with EPA’s oil spill rule. The oil spill rule amendment would permanently exempt any farm or ranch with aggregate above-ground (AGG) fuel storage capacity of 2,500 gallons or less. Farms and ranches with AGG storage between 2,501 gallons and 6,000 gallons would be exempt for just shy of three years (30 months) while the EPA and USDA completed a study to establish an exemption threshold likely within the 2,501-6,000 range.

The new Tier I threshold, the level in which a farmer or rancher could self-certify their own oil spill plan, would be 6,001 gallons (possibly lower depending on the study) to 20,000 gallons; an improvement from the current 1,320 gallons to 10,000 gallons. Tier II, where one would have to have a professional engineer certify your SPCC plan, would begin at any amount over 20,000 gallons. Again, double the current law of anything above 10,000 gallons. Lastly, any farm with a history of spills would be required to have a professional engineer certify their SPCC plan, regardless of the amount of fuel storage they have on the farm/ranch.

While not perfect, passage of WRDA signals significant progress for farmers and ranchers across the country.

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