Elkhart County farmers to feds: Keep your distance

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski made a tour of farms in all 10 counties that make up the 2nd Congressional District to get a sense of farmers' concerns.
Posted on March 26, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 26, 2013 at 6:13 p.m.

NAPPANEE — A contingent of farmers meeting with U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski on Tuesday, March 26, conveyed a blunt message directed at the federal government: Keep your distance.

“That is a pain in the rear with the federal government,” said Lynn Loucks, alluding to what he sees as undue government involvement in water issues, specifically, tile drainage systems on farms. “They don’t need to be in our tile.”

Loucks’s remark came at a meeting on a farm here between Walorski and about a dozen farmers, one of several gatherings the lawmaker had with ag reps on Monday and Tuesday around the 2nd District. Apparently it was par for the course.

After her meeting on the farm north of Nappanee, owned by George Reed, Walorski said she’d heard a lot of ire directed at the feds on her visits, notably the toward Environmental Protection Agency. The critics worry about governmental overreach.

“This issue of heavy-handed regulation from the EPA not only has farmers worried, but it’s affecting their bottom line, it’s affecting the decision on whether to be able to continue to run their family farms,” she said. “And it doesn’t seem to matter what county we’re in, whether it’s Elkhart County, Marshall, LaPorte.”

John Newsom, regional manager for the Indiana Farm Bureau for north central Indiana, including Elkhart County, expanded on Louck’s complaints. The EPA is overzealous in regulating tiles, necessary to keep many Elkhart County farm fields from flooding, and it’s too much, beyond the agency’s scope as outlined in the Clean Water Act.

“Farmers are being harassed by people who don’t appreciate farmers,” said Newsom, also on hand at Tuesday’s meeting, part of what Walorski dubbed her Hoosier Harvest Tour. “They’re wanting to regulate every drop of water in the United States.”

After the gathering, Walorski said now the issue is to figure out how to “ratchet back an overzealous agency.” She, too, has decried overreach by the EPA, notably in her campaign last year for the U.S. House.

Though it received little attention in the Elkhart County meeting, Walorski is also using the tour to gather input on the U.S. Farm Bill, which comes up for renewal later this year.

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