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Presidential candidates comment on farm, ranch related issues

Getting the answers - Part 3

HARRISBURG — Every four years, the American Farm Bureau Federation asks the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to address the issues that concern farmers and ranchers the most. The AFBF asked Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump the same questions.

Both candidates explained their positions on biotechnology, trade, immigration reform, regulatory reform, food safety and more.

Over the next several weeks leading up to the election, each of those question topics and the candidates answers will be published.

Endangered Species Act

Privately owned land provides habitat for the majority of our nation’s endangered and threatened species. As a result, landowners often face harsh regulatory restrictions on their ability to use the land or, worse, lawsuits or enforcement actions. Meanwhile, few species have actually been recovered under the law. It’s time to think about incentive-based programs that create a positive role for landowners in species recovery. The law is overdue for review and revamping. As a president, how would you fix the broken Endangered Species Act, and what role would assign America’s landowners?

Trump: America is blessed with abundant natural resources and beautiful wildlife. Our nation has a proud tradition of conservation and stewardship. This is more true for farmers than anyone else. Farmers care more for the environment than the radical environmentalists. Regrettably, the Endangered Species Act has a poor track record of actually helping to recover animals at risk of extinction. In truth, the ESA has become a tool to block economic development, deny property rights to American landowners, and enrich activist groups and lawyers. Instead of saving endangered species, the Obama-Clinton bureaucrats are endangering American workers with disastrous choices made at the whim of extreme activist groups.

As president, I will direct the Interior Department and Commerce Department to conduct a top-down review of all Obama Administration settlements, rules and executive actions under the ESA and other similar laws and we will change or rescind any of those actions that are unlawful, bad for American farmers and workers or not in the national interest. I will also work closely with Congress to improve and modernize the ESA – a law that is now more than 30 years-old – so that it is more transparent, uses the best science, incentivizes species conservation, protects private property rights, and no longer imposes needless and unwarranted costs on American landowners.

Clinton: Hillary knows that America’s ranchers and farmers are proud stewards of their lands, and that America’s wildlife depend on the health of working lands to survive and thrive. That is why she will increase both the availability and accessibility of funding to incentivize voluntary private conservation. For example, Hillary will work to fully fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and will instruct her Secretary of Agriculture to establish a “one-stop shop” to help farmers and ranchers support for their conservation practices, including securing additional access for sportsmen, including hunters.

Hillary also believes that we should be doing more to slow and reverse the decline of at-risk wildlife species before they reach the brink of extinction and need the protection of the ESA. To this end, Hillary will propose nearly doubling the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program to $100 million per year. This type of support for the voluntary conservation of at-risk wildlife can help reduce the need for species to receive the protections of the ESA. For wildlife that are listed as threatened or endangered, Hillary will direct federal agencies to take full advantage of the flexible tools available under the ESA that respect and accommodate landowner interests, including safe harbor agreements, habitat conservation agreements and other forms of voluntary conservation measures.

Clean Water

The Environmental Protection Agency has clear direction from both Congress and the Supreme Court on the limitations of its authority under the Clean Water Act, and yet the agency continues to push the limits or ignore them completely. What would you do as president to ensure that the EPA acts within the bounds of the Clean Water Act.

Trump: First, I will appoint a pro-farmer Administrator of EPA. Next, I will eliminate the unconstitutional “Waters of the US” rule, and will direct the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA to no longer use this unlawful rule and related guidance documents in making jurisdictional determinations. This rule is so extreme that it gives federal agencies control over creeks, small streams and even puddles or mostly dry areas on private property. I will also ensure that these agencies respect the valid exclusions under environmental statutes for agricultural practices. To be clear, my administration will work to ensure clean water for all Americans while also restoring the proper limits of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Unlike the Obama-Clinton team, my administration will work cooperatively with the states – most of which have been completely ignored by EPA under the Obama Administration – to achieve shared, common-sense environmental goals.

Clinton: The Clean Water Act is one of our most successful environmental regulations, helping fulfill the basic right to all Americans to accessing clean water. Not too long ago our rivers were literally on fire, and polluters were free to dump toxic chemicals at will. The Clean Water Act not only stemmed these environmental disasters but helped to reverse course and restore healthy swimmable and fishable waters for all Americans to enjoy. As president, Hillary will continue this legacy. She will work to ensure waters are safe and protected, will maintain the longstanding exemptions for common farming practices, and will continue pushing for clarity within the law.

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