Republican lawmakers are demanding an explanation from the Environmental Protection Agency about low-level surveillance flyovers of Iowa and Nebraska livestock and farming operations, according to the Des Moines Register
The EPA, says the flyovers are designed to monitor runoff into streams, but Iowa Rep. Tom Lathan says “no federal agency has the right to treat the American farmer like the Taliban.” In a letter to the agency, he calls it a “serious and legitimate” privacy concern for Iowans.
Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters Wednesday he has requested a briefing on the matter as soon as possible, and Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, who served as agriculture secretary under President George W. Bush, also raised concerns, the Register reported.
“This is a trust issue, and farmers and ranchers don’t trust EPA doing low-level surveillance flights over their operations,” Johanns said. “EPA’s surveillance program only adds to the deficit of trust this closed-door agency has earned of late. It’s past time for Congress to put an end to EPA’s use of aerial surveillance.”
Johanns has introduced an amendment to the farm bill that would ban the flights, which the EPA started GOP Lawmakers Object to EPA Flyovers in Iowa and Nebraska
several yeas ago as a more cost-effective way to monitor polluted discharges from livestock and poultry operations.
For his part, Grassley said he’s reserving judgment of the flyover program until he hears from the EPA. He said he was aware the Department of Agriculture has been taking aerial photographs of farmland for years. But he told the Register, “I don’t trust EPA as much as I trust the Department of Agriculture.”
Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin sounded a cautious note as well, but he suggested the flyovers may be, as the EPA claims, a cost-effective way to make sure livestock operations are abiding by the law.
Harkin aide Kate Frischmann told the Register, however, that the senator believes “it is fair and important for farmers and any others with concerns to know what EPA is doing and why.”
She added that while EPA may not have “the money and people to go out to visit all of the relevant facilities on the ground. … There is room for improvement for EPA in more communication and outreach and explanation.”
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