A former University of Arkansas agricultural economist spoke out at a conference on the Fayetteville campus against “constant regulation creep,” a concern which one of his colleagues says is a sign of the times.
Dr. Ed Fryar was among the speakers for the Oct. 12 conference on U.S. and global food security, titled “Preparing for 21st Century Policy Choices,” and was also there to receive the school’s 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is now president of Rogers-headquartered Ozark Mountain Poultry; founded in 2000, OMP has five Arkansas production facilities and 1,500 employees.
At the event, held at the Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences Building’s Hembree Auditorium, Fryar said he had been asked to talk about adapting business strategies to today’s policy realities, but told the audience, “What I’m really thinking about are the regulations.” He listed several federal agencies with whose rules his company has to comply and said with many of them, “It’s as if there’s an atmosphere of, ‘Let’s push the bounds as much as we can on regulation; whether the rules are there or the laws are there, let’s push it, and let somebody else push back.'”
As one example, Fryar cited the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection and Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), which establishes ground rules governing the relationship between poultry processors and their contract growers. After crediting the state’s congressional delegation for working to prevent new GIPSA provisions from getting into the 2014 Farm Bill, Fryar said, “I have no idea how much time, effort and money I have spent this year trying to stop some of that constant creep” of regulation by that agency.
He used as another example: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is newly empowered to oversee off-exchange transactions under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Fryar said OMP has stopped conducting Exchange for Physical (EFP) hedges, which he described as a way two entities can swap commodity futures positions without entering the market, because of “multiple inquiries by the CFTC on some very legitimate EFPs that we’ve run in the past.” And, Fryar elicited laughter from the audience just by mentioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was recently blocked from implementing its controversial Waters of the United States rule by the federal Sixth Circuit; he said WOTUS “really feels like an effort to lay a legal framework for nationwide land use planning.”
Fryar also criticized the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Labor Relations Board and the Internal Revenue Service.
“The impression I get is that the administration believes the way to grow the economy is by a combination of more and more clever regulation,” he said. “From my end, it feels like it’s a war on jobs, a war on wages…and unfortunately, it’s a war that seems to be fairly successful,” with the poverty rate rising and median household incomes falling since 2009, the year President Barack Obama took office.
Another speaker at the event, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), echoed Fryar’s concerns, telling AMP “overregulation” had impeded consumers from buying and businesses from hiring.
“It’s putting a wet blanket on the economy,” Boozman said.
There’s less tolerance for new regulation than there may have been a few years ago, according to Dr. Bobby Coats, UA professor of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business.
Coats told AMP, “When you have a global economy that’s healthy — which we had, for several decades — you’re in a position to take on issues that may have been overlooked, or just now are being understood in the scientific community.”
Now, he said, the global economy is slowing and probably will continue to do so several years into the future, which will have a particularly large negative impact on what have historically been high quality jobs.
Coats said while strong arguments can be made for the new regulations, his former colleague Fryar “is basically raising a flag that if business is going to sustain itself through the rough times and is going to create jobs…we need some relief, and if we don’t get that relief a lot of businesses, given the current economic times, are really going to be challenged, or may not survive.”
He said the country has made great strides in recent decades in protecting the environment and workers but “near term, where we’re at now, we simply need to give it a rest.”
Main photo: Ed Fryar, Sen. John Boozman and Nathan Reed of Nathan B. Reed Farms, also a University of Arkansas 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient. Photos by Gary DiGiuseppe.