Farm Bureau asks members to reject EPA ‘waters of the US’ proposal

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 22, 2014-- The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) today asked its members to resist a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define “waters of the U.S.”

Published Monday in the Federal Register, the “waters of the U.S.” proposed rule reflects the EPA's latest interpretation of the 1972 Clean Water Act.

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In a statement issued today, AFBF President Bob Stallman said rule could ultimately lead to the unlawful expansion of federal regulation to cover routine farming and ranching practices.

“This rule is an end run around congressional intent and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, alike,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “Congress and the courts have both said that the 50 states, not EPA, have power to decide how farming and other land uses should be restricted. It's time to ditch this rule.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said current exemptions for CWA permits for “normal farming, ranching and agricultural practices” are kept intact within the proposal. “If a farmer was not legally required to have a permit before, this rule does not change that status,” she during a press conference last month.

She also said EPA worked “arm in arm” with USDA to form the definitions and the proposal “does not add to or expand the scope of waters protected under the CWA.”

Facets of the conservation and sportsmen communities support the EPA proposal. The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) Director of the Center for Water Resources Jimmy Hague said the rule is an opportunity for hunters and fishermen to demand that Clean Water Act protections be clarified and restored.

“That includes responding to the agencies' request for input on the best ways to protect waters that aren't categorically included in the rule, such as the Prairie Potholes, which provide nesting habitat to as much as 70 percent of all the ducks in North America,” Hague said. 

However, AFBF said the rule would expand federal control over land features such as ditches and areas of agricultural land that are wet only during storms. “EPA categorically classifies most water features and even some dry land as ‘waters of the United States,'” AFBF noted.

According to the farm organization, ordinary field work, fence construction or planting could require a federal permit under the proposal. “The result will be a wave of new regulation or outright prohibitions on routine farming practices and other land uses,” AFBF said.

Stallman also said exemptions included in EPA's proposal only apply to farming that has been ongoing since the 1970s, and it does not include exemptions for any farms that cover weed control or fertilizer use.

“The only thing that is clear and certain is that, under this rule, it will be more difficult for private landowners to farm and ranch, build homes or make changes to the land-even if the changes that landowners propose would benefit the environment,” Stallman said.

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