Rep. Chris Collins was honored today by the American Farm Bureau for his efforts on behalf of the agriculture community, not only in Genesee County and New York, but throughout the United States.
Collins spearheaded an effort to get the EPA to back off waterway rule changes that farmers -- and others -- say will drive up the cost of business, if not put them out of business.
It's a top legislative priority of the Farm Bureau, said New York bureau President Dean Norton, to convince the EPA to "ditch the rule," which he says would change the definition of navigable waterways to include small ditches and puddles, which are common on farms.
Norton presented Collins with an award from the Farm Bureau at a gathering at Post Farms in Elba.
Jeff Post thanked Collins for taking up the cause.
"If you look across the back of our farm, which we've been farming for 100 years, we have a lot of ground that would fall into the rule to be permitted," Post said. "It would have a large impact on a small producer like us."
At the urging of Norton, Collins took up the cause with the goal of getting 100 members of Congress to sign a letter urging the EPA to ditch the rule. Collins had 100 signers in a week. In another week, Norton said, he had 200. Eventually, 240 members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats signed the letter.
"This goes to show you just how flawed the rule is," Norton said. "Then when you have other organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coming out and saying, 'ditch the rule,' and when you have the small business administration telling their partner agency, 'you need to rewrite this thing, it's really flawed,' it tells you it is flawed."
Collins also said the fact the letter would garner such bipartisan support shows how seriously off track the EPA has gotten on the proposed rule change.
"I was able to get majority of Congress, which is very hard to do today, Republicans and Democrats alike, over 240 members, to send a letter to the administrator to the EPA asking, demanding, that they withdraw the rule and start over," Collins said. "There was too much ambiguity, too much worry in a rule that was out for comment."
In a hearing, Collins said, a deputy at the EPA "effectively admitted" that the proposed rule is flawed. The official said the comment period, which has been extended again, to Nov. 15, is designed to give the EPA information to fix any flaws in the rule.
"They said, we can fix it after the comments are done," Collins said. "My comment to them was, 'we don't trust you. No one trusts you. The public doesn't trust you. Farmers don't trust you. Congress doesn't trust you not to overreach yet again.' "
Collins, left, Post and Norton.