WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2014-- Members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) unanimously called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule during their annual meeting last week.
EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released the proposal, which attempts to clarify what falls under the agency's jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA), in March, and have extended a public comment period until Oct. 20.
NASDA’s action item, submitted by North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture Doug Goehring, also asks the EPA and the Army Corps to work with state departments of agriculture on the appropriate scope of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
“As it stands, this proposed rule dramatically expands EPA’s jurisdiction and creates too much uncertainty for our farmers and ranchers. This rule must be withdrawn,” said NASDA CEO Dr. Barbara Glenn. “It is critical that the agencies engage state regulators and stakeholders to work together to find a path forward before the agencies move towards implementation or further rulemaking.”
According to the EPA, the rule is designed to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands. Many in the agricultural community see the proposal as over-reaching, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who called it “…the most amazing potential power grab at least in my lifetime. “
NASDA previously submitted comments expressing concerns about the EPA’s Interpretive Rule for Agricultural Conservation Practices. The interpretive rule outlines a list of specific conservation practices that protect water quality. However, they must be conducted in conformance with the standards of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in order to be exempt form the Clean Water Act permitting requirements, according to the rule.
“Conservation and environmental protection are among our members’ chief responsibilities as state regulatory agencies. We feel the agencies’ proposals will dissuade the use of critical conservation practices needed to preserve American farmland,” Glenn said
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