Originally published July 12 2012
EPA spying on farms and ranches from the air, snapping photos to issue fines
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The expanding Leviathan state appears to be on auto-drive these days; the latest example of Big Brother's overreach coming from the always-intrusive Environmental Protection Agency.
Farmers around the country are complaining about the EPA flying over their property to "check" for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, a practice the agency began in 2010, according to reports.
Ranchers objecting to the flyovers say they don't have anything to hide, which they add, is more to the point: Why is the agency spying on them? What is the impetus? Are there so many violations of the Clean Water Act that a broke government has to spend money it doesn't have to keep an eye on farmers? The EPA says it is looking for illegal disposal of animal waste, but with no history of violations, the program becomes even more ominous.
What's worse, ranchers say, the entire program was set up in secret. Most knew nothing about it until EPA officials let the cat out of the bag a few months ago.
Big Brother just keeps getting bigger
"For me, it just creeps into the 'Big Brother is watching you' area, to where the government just feels like it's getting more and more intrusive," Buck Wehrbein, who manages a cattle feeding operation in Mead, Neb., about 30 miles west of Omaha, told The Associated Press.
The agency says it leases small planes, whose pilots fly EPA staffers over certain cattle operations. The staffers then take photographs of the rancher's land, looking for any evidence that animal waste is running off into rivers and streams.
But again, ranchers argue, with no history of violations, why this program now? Most believe there is a political agenda behind it, as do a number of U.S. lawmakers, many of whom are fielding angry complaints from rancher constituents.
Some lawmakers are attempting to fight back, but so far they don't have enough support, either in Congress or the White House.
Case in point: Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., recently introduced a major farm bill to stop the unwarranted overflights, but the common sense measure fell a few votes short of the 60 needed for passage.
More information required, please
"EPA has been deliberately ambiguous when it comes to the size and scope of this program," said Johanns in a statement. "EPA must be honest about this program or cease it entirely, and I will continue pressing for this information on behalf of all concerned farmers and ranchers."
He's not alone. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa - in the heart of the farming Midwest - met in late June with EPA officials in an attempt to find out why the agency was spying on farmers without provocation. He also wants more information about why the agency sent staffers to "observe" farming operations that weren't required to have discharge permits.
"The EPA has come back with some answers, and those are being reviewed now," Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny said, adding that Grassley may go back to the EPA for more answers, depending on what information has been provided.
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