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Nassif calls on Congress to fix flawed rules under the Endangered Species Act and H-2A program

by Joan Murphy | February 08, 2011
WASHINGTON -- The Endangered Species Act and the H-2A temporary agricultural guest worker program are two examples of government regulations that are stifling farmers, Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers Association, said in remarks to be delivered at a Feb. 10 congressional hearing.

The House of Representatives Oversight & Government Reform Committee plans to hold a hearing on regulatory impediments to job creation to probe into federal rules that hurt businesses, and Mr. Nassif represents the only witness invited to testify on the impact of flawed rules on the specialty crop industry.

Specialty crop producers are not moving out of the country to dodge regulations, "they are leaving because many regulations are not about common sense responsibility but about compliance with an agency's interpretation of the law regardless of the real-world impact, available science and options for workable compliance," he told lawmakers.

He faults legal interpretations of the Endangered Species Act for causing farmers during the 2009 drought to receive only 10 percent of their promised water because of flow restrictions due to federal rules protecting fish species. Nearly 500,000 acres of farmland fallowed due to supply cutbacks, which cost up to $370 million in 2009, he said.

Another program -- the H-2A program -- is causing farmers to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for technical violations, and applications for workers are often delayed months, resulting in adverse financial impact and crops that rot in the field, he said.

Mr. Nassif called on the committee to investigate the visa program and demand that the U.S. Department of Labor explain its policy decisions, inconsistency in its certification process and assessment of penalties that "are financially ruinous for family farms."