LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Complex net of regulations causes hardship for business owners

Friday, February 28, 2014 | 2:33 p.m. CST

As owner of Heartland Forest Consulting, LLC, it is my job to help people make the most of their trees and forested property.

Many of my clients are farmers and landowners with investment interests in their property. Unfortunately, the most common problems I see my clients, as well as business owners like myself, face aren’t created by the land, but instead by government bureaucracy and federal agencies. I consistently find that regulations are the top concern among people trying to start or grow their businesses.

There are so many regulations, both state and federal, on landscaping, timber harvesting, chemical applications, employer responsibilities, taxation, insurance and more. Land and business owners in Missouri have trouble making sense of them all – especially when many of these regulations overlap.

The regulatory process desperately needs to be reformed and simplified so that ordinary people trying to make a living and grow their businesses can do so without unnecessary hoops to jump through.

In addition to the complexity of the regulatory system, the associated economic burdens also cause hardship for Missourians and deter small business owners from hiring.

I hope our Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt push in Congress for regulatory reform that emphasizes helping business owners and not penalizing them.

Chris Lohmann lives in Ashland.

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Tony Black February 28, 2014 | 3:52 p.m.

I say again, be specific. Which regulations?

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John Schultz February 28, 2014 | 4:13 p.m.

I'm guessing there is a limit on words in a letter to the editor. An enterprising reporter could follow up though.

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Skip Yates February 28, 2014 | 6:16 p.m.

Yes, lacks an awful lot of specifics. There are regs on CRP, and most anything if you are a farm that takes federal subsidies, be it for conservation, wildlife management, erosion, crops, etc. And, sometimes the regulations change and are counter-productive from the initial intent. Without getting lengthy,that happened to me, and I went from a field of warm season grasses, with 3-4 covey of quail, to back to leasing that field for crops and no wildlife anymore. It wasn't a profit motive; but, rather me telling the government they can't boss me around on my property. The local folks were only doing what they were, no heartburn there.

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Michael Williams February 28, 2014 | 7:38 p.m.

SkipY: Yes, lots of regs on CRP, WHIP, and EQIP. Fortunately, I have a wonderful relationship with FSA, plus the county committee (made up of farmers) understands what I'm trying to do. But, you're right.....the gov't is renting your land, and that means they call a lot of shots. One HUGE problem is.....the rent the gov't is paying is less than cash rent for crops. As a result, millions of acres of CRP land have been pulled from CRP (and wildlife), and converted to crops.

TonyB wants specific regulations. Here's a few. If you own CRP, you have a management plan you HAVE to follow. If you don't follow it, you will get fined and perhaps have to pay all the money back. On my contract, I have 3 choices with my midmanagement practices: burn, disk, or spray with herbicide. In addition, I have to keep the thistles out, plus brush and all sorts of noxious weeds. I have to maintain a cover of fescue and legumes, but the legumes left long ago and fescue is unarguably the WORST wildlife grass you can find. I have started getting committee approval to convert land back to savannas (16 acres so far, or only 7.2%) at my personal expense. However, if my next contract DOES NOT compete with cash rent prices, 70 acres get converted back to cropland. The farm has to have an income to cover expenses. If CRP does not cover expenses, I will withdraw from CRP and cash rent the place.

I have to report annually on my progress, plus stop by FSA often for food plot reports and other paperwork items. I sign my name a lot, and those signatures have legal implications.

I've been happy with my CRP, mainly because I haven't had the need to crop it. Truth is, the land should never have been cropped in the first place. It should be a savanna, except for the creek-bottom forests. But "rent" is a two-way street. If I can't get the rent needed, I'll do what I don't want to do.

If you want to see BIGTIME regulations, you need to talk to a row-crop farmer. Did you know that farmers HAVE to report crop acreage EACH year? And they better be accurate. They have to sign legal documents on the seed they use (patents), and there are regulations on highly-erodible ground, waterways, pesticide applications, and the like. The paperwork is absolutely astounding, and much of it has serious legal implications if you do it wrong. That's one HUGE reason I will not crop my land myself even tho I have the equipment. I'll simply join the crowd that is creating bigger farms instead of preserving smaller ones. I'll do it by renting to a fellow who is already cropping 1500 acres.

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