Propane Regulations - July 6, 2007

There are times when proposed legislation, rules or regulations look just fine on the surface and make a lot of sense. But then, closer examination says “No, there is a problem here”. We currently have one of those proposed rules on the table from the Department of Homeland Security, and as a long-time farmer, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, quickly saw the folly of the new regulation dealing with propane.

The proposal would list propane as a “chemical of interest” when kept in quantities greater than 7,500 pounds, forcing a costly risk assessment. Many farmers and other businesses use propane in quantities greater than 7,500 pounds. The proposal would require each to pay a one-time $2,300 to $3,500 dollar fee for the assessment, which includes a background check.

Senator Grassley said “Propane is used by virtually every farmer to dry their grain or heat their house. Hopefully they, the Department of Homeland Security, just don’t understand how the new regulations would affect every farmer, or even non-farmer.” The Senator went on to say “The Department has a tough and critical job in protecting the infrastructure of our country, and I understand that. But at the same time, those who put out these rules need to understand the impact their actions have on people in every part of the country.”

In addition to Senator Grassley, concern was expressed by the National Grain and Feed Association , and the Grain Elevator and Processing Society, whose Executive Vice President David Krejci questioned the necessity of further regulating propane. He said “At what point are you dealing with safety, when you’re saying that everything is considered a high risk? It is painted with such a broad brush that it seems like we’re really not focusing on what the risk assessment is.”

So, Senator Grassley, as well as Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, are hoping that the Department of Homeland Security will readjust this rule. Senator Grassley said “If the department doesn’t, then the appropriations bill might be the way to go; to say in the appropriations bill, ‘no money will be used to enforce this rule’.”

In this day of escalating costs for all inputs in food production, I would hope the Department re-examines its proposed regulation and makes the necessary changes to avoid Congressional action on the appropriations bill.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.