By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday requiring federal agencies to establish task forces aimed at cutting federal regulations considered to be "costly" and "unnecessary," according to the president's order.
This perhaps will open the door for the elimination of a number of environmental regulations the agriculture industry has said hurt farmers and ranchers, including the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule.
Trump's first executive order calling for the elimination of two regulations for every new regulation, already faces a legal challenge by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory affairs at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said it's not likely the president can eliminate the WOTUS rule through executive order. Instead, actual changes to the regulation would have to be done by Congress.
The WOTUS rule currently has been stayed by a federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court sometime this year is expected to consider a jurisdictional challenge on WOTUS, even before a court would get to the merits of the rule.
The president's order on Friday requires every agency to establish a regulatory reform task force to "eliminate red tape."
"Each regulatory reform task force will evaluate existing regulations and identify candidates for repeal or modification," the order says.
"Each agency's task force will focus on eliminating costly and unnecessary regulations. To hold the task forces accountable, agencies will measure and report progress in achieving the president's directives."
According to a news release from the White House, "the regulations from the last administration cost American taxpayers $873 billion in total" in finalizing more than 3,000 regulations.
In a speech before the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum earlier this week in Arlington, Virginia, AFBF President Zippy Duvall said federal regulations are hurting agriculture.
"We should not allow regulations to strangle our economy or strangle the innovation and optimism our nation needs," he said.
"Many of our farmers are at a breaking point in terms of generating income to cover the cost of production. Increased regulation raises that cost of production, and farmers and ranchers simply cannot bear that burden in today's ag economy."
In his first speech, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said earlier this week that he believes environmental protection and economic growth can go hand in hand.
"I believe that we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment," he said.
"We don't have to choose between the two. I think our nation has done better than any nation in the world at making sure that we do the job of protecting our natural resources, and protecting our environment, while also respecting economic growth."
The president's executive order received mixed reaction.
In a statement to DTN, the American Sustainable Business Council said it was concerned about how far federal agencies will go.
"Regulations exist for a reason," ASBC Chief Executive Officer David Levine said.
"Critical standards and safeguards protect businesses and the public from a range of real risks and threats that markets cannot adequately address. In addition, good regulations encourage innovation, a key ingredient to a robust economy. Let's not lose those vital benefits. Innovation and accountability should be the guideposts. This executive order is misguided. What businesses need are a level playing field and regulatory compliance assistance."
American Petroleum Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Gerard said the order was a good step.
"In the past few years, our industry has faced a regulatory onslaught with 145 new rules and regulations aimed at hindering the development of our nation's energy resources," he said.
"Today's action by President Trump will unleash innovation across the nation, and it will allow our economy to grow, help lower energy costs for consumers, and help American workers."
Environmental interest group Waterkeeper Alliance said in a statement the administration's actions may threaten clean water.
"On the heels of Steve Bannon declaring that the Trump administration selected particular cabinet nominees to intentionally destroy their federal agencies, President Trump signed an executive order today setting up 'regulatory reform officers' and 'task forces' within the agencies to help carry out the destruction of regulations," the group said.
"The harsh words the administration chose to describe its agenda are intentional and must be taken seriously. Stopping regulatory 'overreach' is one thing, but destroying agencies and regulations that, for example, ensure the tap water your children drink doesn't contain pollutants that cause cancer or brain damage, is outrageous and immoral."
Trump signed the new executive order, according to a pool press report, with the CEOs of a number of companies, including Dow Chemical, Archer Daniels Midland, 3M and Campbell Soup.
"Excessive regulations are killing jobs, driving companies out of our country like never before," Trump said.
"Every regulation should have to pass a simple test: Does it make life better or safer for American workers or consumers. If the answer is 'no,' if the answer is 'no,' we will be getting rid of it and getting rid of it quickly. We will stop punishing companies for doing business in the United States."
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN
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