A Wheat Grower Who Wants Fewer Regs

Four of the seven Tuckness generations to farm or ranch in Malheur County. Left to right with Malheur Butte in the background: Dana , his son Henry, his father Earl, grandson Brody, and son Stanley (Brody's dad).

Eastern Oregon farmer Dana Tuckness thinks regulatory agencies have more power than they should.

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Tuckness, president of the Oregon Wheat Growers League, did not vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton. For the first time in his life, he entered a write-in candidate.

Nonetheless he thinks Trump might be good for agriculture. A fifth-generation Malheur County farmer, Tuckness grows wheat, corn, sugar beets, and dry bean seed on 400 acres in Ontario, Oregon.

“It looks like he’s going to rein in regulatory agencies, the EPA in particular. They’ve been totally out of control out of the last few years,” said Tuckness, who is also on the board of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

He’s particularly pleased that Trump seems to be dismantling Obama’s Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS), issued in 2015, which said the government can limit pollution in small bodies of water such as streams and wetlands.  

“As I understand it, any little creek bed that might run water for just a few hours out of a year would be considered a live stream. Then they were saying you couldn’t spray between 100 feet any kind of pesticides.” Tuckness said.

He worries that in winter, snow run-off might create temporary rivulets that would be considered streams under WOTUS.

But the WOTUS rule, also called the Clean Water Rule, is not a regulatory document, and as such it does not mandate no-spray “buffer zones” around waterways.

Instead, it clarifies what bodies of water are within the scope of federal water protection under the Clean Water Act — not included are ditches, shallow subsurface flow, or temporary rivulets formed by snow melt.*

According to Yvonne Vallette, an aquatic ecologistat the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Tuckness could be thinking of the 2014 U.S. district court-ordered requirement for EPA to establish interim no-spray buffer zones for certain pesticides (including chlorpyrifos) applied near waterways to protect federally listed endangered salmonid species in Oregon and Washington. At the state level, pesticide use is regulated by the Oregon Department of Agriculture or ODA.

But the fact remains, Tuckness is against regulations that would keep him from spraying pesticides on his crops. So he’s glad Trump is making efforts to dismantle them.

What he’s not happy about is the President’s recent budget proposal, which would cut crop insurance, Foreign Market Development, and the Market Access Program, among other agricultural programs.

“The last few years, we’ve been in this drought and the crop insurance really helps that a lot,” said Tuckness. “That’s one thing I’d hate to see cut.”

Tuckness will join other NAWG members to urge the President and members of Congress to reconsider these cuts.

“Ag helped him get elected!” Tuckness said, sounding peeved. “If this sticks, it’s going to be tough.”

*Author’s note: While I was reporting the story, the EPA apparently took down the page that explains “What the Clean Water Rule Does Not Do.”  Here is a screen shot of the cached pageScreen Shot 2017 05 16 at 9.18.19 AM2

This article is one in a series of profiles about Oregon farmers and the Trump Administration.