Regulations Can Have Unintended Consequences

I’d like to share this week about how government bureaucrats have made laws and regulations that seem to have the opposite effect of what they intended. Here in Iowa, there have been many rules and regulations enacted to help the small farmer. Small farms are thought to be family farms.

Although many tend to associate small farms with family farmers, the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service shows that 97% of farms are family farms. Many people equate the number of small farms to the number of people working locally, the number of kids enrolled in local schools, as well as the health of Main Street businesses in small town. Two problems come to mind with this reasoning: (1) Farms must be profitable to help the local economy, and (2) small farms normally have a tougher time with regulations.

Larger farms have staff and more scale to spread these costs over. On my small crop farm, it’s more difficult to use newer technology or to implement new conservation practices due to high costs. For example, if I am required to get permits for water discharge, I have fewer acres across which to spread such costs.

On a bigger scale, we can look out West to where federal government is battling ranchers over control of the ground for the sake of wildlife. Government agencies have kicked ranchers off their range and stopped timber harvest, yet the number of animals the government is trying to protect has actually declined. Forest fires have been bigger where timber harvest has stopped, and wildlife is doing better where the property was managed by private individuals who needed to make a profit to stay in business. I just read a story that says massive amounts of money is needed to trim the Sierra forests. Because these forests have become so overgrown under federal management, there massive forest fires are a real concern. It sounds like many federal policies are neither good for old growth trees, wildlife nor taxpayers!

There has been a movement – a strategy by environmental groups to sue government agencies – to make them take these actions. Basically law is being made by a court decree without due process or public debate. The government agency caves in to the lawsuit, and new policy is made.

Now we’re seeing the disastrous side-effects that can result from this type of action! A big debate is taking place as over whether the federal government can legally own this ground in the West. But the truth is, the government is buying more and more property every day. There are public employees that have this as their only job. The more property that is purchased, the more property is taken off the property tax roll. As a result, this land become a cost instead of a revenue generator for the U.S. government.

Our country treatment of land – and of farmers and ranchers – is largely dependent upon who holds the highest office. With the election season is upon us, there are many politicians saying what they think certain groups want to hear. It can be a lot to listen to, I know. But take the time to really listen and understand what the unintended results will be. It’s your civic duty!