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CHAPTER 5 CONSTRAINTS ON U.S. AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION AND RESEARCH: FEDERAL REGULATIONS AND LEGISLATION INTRODUCTION Study of the technological opportunities for the expansion of agricultural production shows clearly that a large contribution may be expected from scientific research. This positive conclusion must be tempered, however, by the realization that a broad range of restrictions may influence not only the adoption and use of new scientific developments, but the very research process that generates them. The body of this report deals with the potential of new scientific findings through research, but a cautionary note should be added on constraints that may limit their generation and use. Emphasis is often given to constraints that limit agricultural production in the agriculturally developing countries. These constraints include a host of economic, social, cultural, and political factors. Most of them are well recognized and discussed in the literature: for instance, arbitrary pricing policies for inputs and outputs; inadequate credit and marketing institutions; lack of modern inputs; poorly functioning teaching, research, and extension institutions; and inequitable and impractical land tenure arrangements. Less well understood, however, and somewhat para- doxical, is the increasing chain of constraints that bear directly on the generation and adoption of technology in the U.S. Attention has been given, of course, to the effects of price and production controls. Under pressure of increased demand for food products, however, a freeing up of the market appears to be taking place. Nevertheless, there is considerable room for relaxation of restrictions that derive from imperfections in competition stimulated by private and public actions. A comprehensive analysis should be made of the cumulative effect and total cost of federal regulations and legislation on U.S. agricultural research and production. Increased attention should be focused on the growing body of government (state and federal) legislation and regulations that have been adopted to enhance environmental quality and assure human safety which, in the process, may constrain agricultural activities. A summary is not easily made, nor will an attempt be made to analyze the broad range -48-
of measures that are being taken to control air and water pollution, waste disposal, chemical residues, and genetic variation; to protect endangered species; to zone land for agricultural use; to restrict the development and use of water resources for agriculture; and to regulate the use of agricultural labor. Instead, the description of some U.S. legislation and regulations will indicate the impact that is felt by the agricultural producer and researcher. PUBLIC LAW 91-596 OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT OF 1970 This Act, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, includes concerns for the safety of all agricultural workers. Attention is being given to safeguards against such potential hazards as nuisance dusts, noise, chemicals, animal handling, equipment, tools, and facilities. Conszderable research in agricultural and human engineering will be necessary to meet the requirements of this Act. PUBLIC LAW 92-500 FEDERAL WATER POLLUTION CONTROL ACT AMENDMENTS OF 1972 This Act, administered by EPA, is still in the process of implementation. It includes provisions for the control Of nonpoint source pollution of navigable waters resulting from runoff from land used for agricultural livestock and crop production. In view of the Act's broad definition of "navigable waters," much of the prime agricultural land of the U.S. is essentially contiguous to "navigable waters," and therefore subject to some regulation. Good agricultural practice has long endorsed conservation of the land and the establishment of systems to constrain the movement of soil and its attending chemicals. Soil conservation practices have been employed where economically and physically feasible. But to fully constrain all movement of soil and chemicals essential to crop production from much of the nation's agricultural land by 1985, as called for under the Act, may entail major changes in cultural practices, land use patterns, types of crops grown, and in the conventional handling of dairy and beef cattle as well. The achievement of these ends could require a substantial redirection of research efforts by plant scientists, soil scientists, hydrologists, engineers, and others in both the public and private sectors. And the economic impact on farmers as they affect production must also be considered. In addition, the Act defines as point sources of pollution return flows from irrigation systems used in crop production in the arid areas of the West. As such, irrigation return flows will be required to meet established -49-
limits for identified pollutants they have picked up while draining from agricultural lands. New technology will have to be developed before farmers will be able to comply with this portion of the law. PUBLIC LAW 92-516 FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL PESTICIDE CONTROL ACT OF 1972 This Act, administered by EPA, regulates through a process of registration the availability and use of all agricultural pesticides on the basis of benefits and risks to environmental and human safety. The agricultural chemical industry provides the scientific data on which the agency bases its decision whether or not to register a product for use. Research data requirements for registration, as they increase in number and scope and become more finite and structured, will act as economic disincentives to the pesticide industry. U.S. companies will either be discouraged from further risk taking in long-term P&D, or they will move critical portions of their R6D effort, as well as considerable production, into foreign countries where they can serve an expanding world market. The latter development in particular should be avoided to prevent any dependence of U.S. agriculture on the importation of the pesticides and pest control technology essential to contemporary pest management. PUBLIC LAW 93-205 ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT OF 1973 This Act, administered by USDI, protects any species which is determined to be in danger of extinction (other than economically destructive insects) and includes without limitation any mammal, fish, bird, amphibian, reptile, mollusk, crustacean, arthropod, or other invertebrate and any member of the plant kingdom. USDI has named 108 endangered animals and has under review a proposal for listing as endangered species 42 genera of butterflies, 67 fresh water crustaceans, 61 mollusks, and 7 fresh water sponges. The Smithsonian Institution recently completed and submitted for consideration a list of some 2,000 plant species it considers endangered. The above species are widely dispersed throughout the U.S. Once a species is named on the endangered list, its "critical habitat" will be determined according to vital needs, including space for normal growth, movement or territorial behavior, and conditions to satisfy other biological, physical, or behavioral requirements. Actions USDI may implement to protect the "critical habitat" include the development of regulations, acquisition of land and water leasing -50-
arrangements, and other administrative and management plans and activities. Considering the diversity of endangered species already named and under consideration and their distribution across the nation, it is indeed likely that "critical habitats" will be identified on and in the vicinity of agricultural lands now in use and on potential agricultural lands, such as open ranges. Therefore, under the administration of this Act the protection of a "critical habitat" for each endangered species could have the force of withdrawing land from commercial use, quite possibly without purchase or up- keep responsibility, and future expansion of agriculture to new lands might be effectively blocked by prior identification of an "endangered species" in the area of projected expansion. FDA, GRAS REGULATIONS TITLE 21 - FOOD AND DRUG, CHAPTER 1, SUBCHAPTER B, PART 121 - FOOD ADDITIVES, SECTION 121.3 (b) (2) (ii) These regulations, administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), require that the FDA be notified of the introduction of new varieties and strains of food crops for which the nutritional or toxicological constituents, or both, are significantly altered by breeding or selection. The major nutritional constituents of most food crops, especially those considered important in the daily diet, are evaluated in new varieties, and such evaluation should be continued. However, it has not been routine practice to analyze for naturally occurring toxicants. Although the occurrence of toxicants in many common food crops has been known for many years, little is known about the hazard they pose to human health at levels normally found in commercial varieties. The NAS has since identified a broad spectrum of toxicants occurring naturally in food, but the possibilities of introducing new toxicants through genetic manipulation aimed at developing new varieties to repel, inhibit, or kill pests have not been considered. If such toxic constituents occur in the edible portion of the food crop, the FDA regulations must be observed and toxicological studies undertaken to determine the hazard to human health. SELECTED REFERENCES Federal Register (1975a) EPA Pesticide Programs. Guidelines for Registering Pesticides in the U.S. 40 (123): 26802-26928. June 25. Federal Register (1975b) EPA Pesticide Programs. Registration, Regulations, and Classifications Procedures. 40 (129): 28242-28286. July 3. -51-
National Academy of Sciences (1973) Toxicants Occurring Naturally in Foods. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences. -52-