Sixth District U.S. Rep. Sam Graves called for less government spending and continued environmental deregulation Monday during what was billed as a "Main Street Listening Tour" stop at Northwest Missouri State University's R.T. Wright Farm.
Graves, who is serving his sixth term in Congress and is the heavy favorite to defeat Democratic challenger Kyle Yarber in November, spoke for about 45 minutes before a small crowd of made up of university administrators, farmers and elected officials.
Most of his comments came during an extended question-and-answer period in which queries about agriculture-related issues predominated.
Graves, a Tarkio Republican who chairs the House Small Business Committee, also addressed economic issues in a brief opening statement, emphasizing his support for an extension of Bush-era tax cuts that he said were essential to providing a more stable environment for business expansion and job creation.
He said the three biggest challenges facing small business going into 2012 are tax code uncertainty, excessive government regulation and concerns about the impact of the new federal health law
Graves touched on Republican efforts to curtail the regulatory powers of such Executive Branch entities as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of Labor, all of which he described as "out of control."
Graves had particularly harsh words for the EPA, which he said was considering proposals that would allow it to regulate non-navigable waterways and excessive dust.
"There is a proposal for the EPA to regulate dust as a pollutant," he said.
"But in rural areas, dust is just a fact of life. It's part of what we do, particularly when it comes to agriculture."
Graves said he is supporting legislation that would block creation of new federal regulations not approved by Congress until the nation's unemployment rate falls below 6 percent.
He also attacked what he sees as excessive government spending, saying that President Barack Obama's proposed budget embraces a $1.5 trillion deficit, and that deep cuts supported by the GOP-dominated House have been repeatedly shot down by the Democratically controlled Senate.
Turning to the Farm Bill currently stalled in Congress due to lawmaker concerns over its $100 billion-a-year price tag, Graves said he sees opportunities to cut back on spending without reducing programs that directly benefit farmers and ranchers.
About 80 percent of Farm Bill spending, he said, comes from food stamps and other nutrition programs, which Graves would like to see reduced.
On other fronts, Graves said the federal rural bridges program, which channels millions of dollars in federal transportation funds into agriculture-dependent counties like Nodaway, is "safe" for now and could win protection over the long term with passage of a new highway bill.