Harriet M. Hageman, attorney at Hageman and Brighton, P.C., in Cheyenne,WY, was the keynote speaker at the 18th Annual Wyoming Women in Ag Symposium in Casper on Nov. 17. I was also on the program and appreciated the opportunity to listen to Hageman discuss the regulatory environment in Washington, D.C., and what ranchers need to know. As a professional specializing in environmental issues, Hageman keeps her ear to the ground on topics like water rights and conservation. Here are some highlights from her keynote address.
"It’s not news that we are broke in this country. The current financial climate is a mess. Our national debt has exceeded $15 trillion; that’s more than $10,000 of new debt/U.S. citizen. In 2009, Congress passed 125 new laws. In that same year, there were over 3,500 new regulations adopted by federal agencies, as well. I keep an eye on regulations such as the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act."
Hageman stressed that the most dangerous threat to producers is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"The EPA is one of the most insidious organizations in the U.S., and what it does to innocent citizens is absolutely criminal. I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but if we don’t do something about EPA, we will not survive. We cannot afford to let EPA continue to persecute, not prosecute, but persecute innocent Americans who have done nothing wrong. Congress must start fighting back. The EPA is a prime example of regulation without representation."
Strong words about a government agency, but Hagemen promised she isn’t anti-government.
"I’m not anti-government; I’m not even anti-federal government. But, I am anti-bad government. I’m not going to beat up on the current administration because it’s the popular thing to do right now, but there are some major facts to consider. The Obama administration’s cost estimates for 427 proposed and enacted new regulations will cost the economy more than $1 billion/year. This cost estimate was announced in August, at the same time we had the debt ceiling debate going on."
According to Hagemen, as of November, there are 70,320 pages of regulations published in the Federal Register, equating to 116 million hours of annual paperwork burden.
"Since Obama took office, employment at federal agencies has climbed more than 13%, while private-sector employment rates have dropped by 5.8%. Our country has worked pretty well for a long time, but in the last 40 years, the fundamentals have changed. I believe we can turn things around. I don’t want to discourage ranchers; I want you to take this information and do something about it. I believe EPA should have to justify its budget each and every single year. I believe we need to work more with our elected officials."
She certainly presented some weighty issues relating to EPA, government oversight and the onslaught of regulations coming down the pike that could impact farmers and ranchers across the country. Her solution is simple: get engaged, get educated and be the change you want to see in the world.
How concerned are you about big government, the overreach of EPA and the costly burden of new regulations being imposed on farmers and ranchers?