Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Farmers face a tired regulation

We keep hearing from the Governor’s office that New York State is open for business. While that might be true for large corporations for which the state sees fit to give millions of our dollars for them to come here, that misleading marketing campaign glosses over the fact that the Cuomo Administration and legislature have continued to make the Empire State one of the least attractive places in which to start a small business or grow an existing one due to costs and regulations.

Just look at what has been introduced to the New York economy over the past two years: a quantum leap in minimum wage rates was passed; an expansive paid family leave program was introduced; and some onerous employee scheduling standards have been proposed.

Those are just a few of the big items.

But, you can’t overlook the small things, too.

When the government get its hands in the minutiae of running a business you can’t help but laugh at the zealousness of their over-involvement, but it quickly turns out to be not-so-funny when you consider the ramifications of that overregulation.

A perfect example is the latest set of rules put upon farmers.

Take a drive across rural Niagara County and you will see countless old tractor and truck tires in use at farms holding down covers and tarpaulins that are protecting hay, straw, salt, and other feeds from the elements. If it weren’t for those tires, the tarps would blow over or away and the feedstock would be soaked by rain or snow.

Those tires are harmless enough, right?  

Not so to the Department of Environmental Conservation. To their policymakers, those tires are evil.

The DEC believes that such tires are breeding grounds for mosquitos and, in turn, viruses like West Nile. So, in their eyes, their use needs to be regulated. This fall, the agency introduced almost unbelievable standards to do just that.

The new rules mandate that only 0.25 passenger tire equivalents be used per square foot of cover area. But, farmers aren’t in most cases using tires from passenger cars to keep their tarps down. They are using much larger tires that expired through use on the farm. So, they have to crunch numbers and convert, mathematically, their truck and tractor tires into passenger tires. Under the DEC standards, a passenger tire equivalent is a tire with a rim of 17 inches or less.

As if trying to be a calculus major to manage your feedlot isn’t bad enough, none of those tires are allowed to be whole. In all cases, the DEC says they have to be either cut in half or have holes drilled through them.

That’s not an easy – or safe – undertaking.

Most tires in use as tarp weights are radial-ply, meaning there are wires in both the tread and side walls. It’s a very difficult task for farm laborers to have to mangle such tires and once they do, it puts the cattle – the feed of which they are trying to protect – at serious risk. If metal breaks free from the tires, which is likely, it could get into the fodder underneath the cover. If a dairy cow consumes that metal in even the smallest amounts, it will create life-threatening consequences from torn innards to choking to infection. Many cows will die because of these new rules now that the metals inside the tires are becoming what is a mandated exposure.  

The new standards go into effect May 2 of 2018. Farms have less than a half-year to be ready for DEC inspections and fines if they don’t comply. But compliance isn’t easy. Do they find alternative methods – if so what and then what becomes of the old tires they accumulate? Or, do they cut and drill tires hoping a worker isn’t hurt in the process or that a cow is killed by accidentally ingesting metal afterwards?  

Never mind that the Empire State has 2.4 million acres of wetlands in which the mosquitoes behind these rules are born; it’s those silly old tires that are the threat to public safety in the eyes of the Cuomo Administration.

Regulations like this show that New York State isn’t open for business -- it’s closed.

From the 25 December 2017 Greater Niagara Newspapers   

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