WASHINGTON - This week during The Ag Minute, guest host Rep. Jeff Fortenberry discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) use of aerial surveillance inspections of regulated livestock operations in Nebraska. Last week Rep. Fortenberry joined his Nebraska colleagues in writing a bipartisan, bicameral letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking for information on the practice, specifically what statutory authority the agency is using to conduct these inspections.
The transcript is below.
"Hi, I'm Congressman Jeff Fortenberry from Nebraska. We are proud that agriculture is a bright spot in America's economy, and the work of our farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers is essential to food security, conservation, energy policy, and even national security
"But a problem has recently arisen that concerns much of the agricultural community. We learned that the government has eyes in the sky over good farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and surrounding states.
"I'm working with my Nebraska colleagues in Congress to find out why the government has been sending planes over the farm operations of ag producers in the heartland. The Environmental Protection Agency has been using military-style drone planes to secretly observe livestock operations. Their rational is that this aerial surveillance is a cost-effective means of ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act. But my colleagues and I are greatly concerned about the violations of farmers' and ranchers' civil liberties, and we want to know under what statutory authority the EPA believes it can conduct these flights.
"Many Americans are rightly concerned with this government intrusion. There are many questions: How do they choose who is subject to this surveillance? Is surveillance strictly limited to compliance with the Clean Water Act? What happens to the photos and videos of these good citizens and their property afterward? There are a lot of privacy-related questions that the EPA should answer and I believe rural Americans deserve to know."
The Ag Minute is Chairman Lucas's weekly radio address that is released from the House Agriculture Committee.