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Congressman in Liberty after addressing Rice Symposium

Congressman in Liberty after addressing Rice Symposium
Liberty Vindicator | By Casey Stinnett
Jan. 26, 2018 |  Link

After a stop at the local radio station, Congressman Brian Babin was kind enough to drop by The Vindicator office this afternoon for a short visit.

He had just come from the Southeast Texas Rice Symposium being held in Winnie and talked a bit about the problems area farmers have faced following Hurricane Harvey.

Many farmers along the Gulf Coast have been unable to take their crops to market because of the possibility that flood waters contaminated their fields. This is true in some cases whether or not any actual contamination has taken place. The congressman mentioned one farmer he learned of at the symposium who said he was not allowed to take his crop to market and had to bury 1.2 million pounds of rice because it might have been contaminated.

“There needs to be a little safety net for farmers,” Babin said.

He added that America has the most efficient farmers in the world and stressed the importance of our taking care of the industry that feeds us.

Waters of the United States

One particular issue of concern he mentioned is over how the federal government defines “Waters of the United States” that fall under federal jurisdiction.

Obama-era regulatory changes expanded the definition of Waters of the United States. So much so, Babin said, that any ditch with water in it or a mud puddle might be considered as falling under federal jurisdiction.

He sees this as a hindrance to farming and ranching operations and said, “We’re in the process of trying to roll that back.”

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Babin also touted the newly passed tax reforms.

“The ramifications of the new jobs and tax act has been huge,” he said.

Hundreds of companies are giving their employees raises and bonuses because of the act, and billions of dollars held overseas are being repatriated, Babin said. The congressman mentioned Apple Computers as one example of a company responding to the tax reform by bringing many billions of dollars back to invest in the U.S. economy.

Unemployment is at an all-time low for minorities, Babin said, “People are going back to work, and people want to work.”

Electronic Logging Devices

The congressman spoke at some length about his opposition to the federal regulations that went into effect Dec. 18 requiring Electronic Logging Devices be installed all American freight trucks.

He believes the ELDs are an invasion of privacy, place an unnecessary financial burden on small trucking operations, and will actually create safety issues.

Babin was once himself a trucker for a couple of years in the early 1970s.

“My heart goes out to the truckers,” he said.

The ELDs monitor how long each truck is in operation, and as the congressman explained, with federal rules forbidding truckers to stay on the road for more than 14 hours at a time, the ELDs make it possible for the government to impose a fine should a trucker continue to drive after that 14-hour period has elapsed.

The safety issue Babin predicts is that truckers might often race to reach their destinations before being forced to stop wherever they are when their 14 hours are up. A driver, he said, might be only 20 minutes from his destination when his 14 hours are complete and would have to either stop beside the road for 10 hours before driving that last 20 minutes or else continue to his destination without stopping and be fined for driving more than 14 hours.

“I think it’s going to make the roads less safe,” Babin said.

The congressman said he is disappointed that President Trump has not addressed this issue. He had hoped the president would issue an executive order delaying the implementation of ELD regulation, but so far the president has not acted upon it.

He thinks the president will likely come to regret this. Babin said the compliance costs of ELDs is some $2 billion, much of which will be borne by individual owner-operators and small companies — that very part of the population whose interests the president promised to protect in his inaugural address.

Babin introduced H.R. 3282, titled the ELD Extension Act of 2017, last summer, but it has not yet come to the floor of the House.

“It’s not sexy,” the congressman said explaining his frustration in trying to get the national media’s attention on the issue of ELDs, but it matters a great deal to the small business truckers.