Ag Policy Blog

Farm Bureau Opposes EPA Waters Rule

By Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor

The American Farm Bureau Federation added itself to the list of groups opposing the EPA/Army Corps of Engineers proposal to redefine "waters of the U.S."

Farm Bureau issued a statement Tuesday on the potential change in the Clean Water Act.

“The EPA proposal poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and other landowners. Under EPA’s proposed new rule, waters—even ditches—are regulated even if they are miles from the nearest ‘navigable’ waters. Indeed, so-called ‘waters’ are regulated even if they aren’t wet most of the time. EPA says its new rule will reduce uncertainty, and that much seems to be true: there isn’t much uncertainty if most every feature where water flows or stands after a rainfall is federally regulated," said Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said last week that the proposed rule keeps traditional agricultural exemptions under the Clean Water Act. The agency also specified certain conservation practices that would be exempt from possible regulation. McCarthy indicated she thought the agricultural industry would be pleasantly surprised by the proposal. That hasn't been the case.

CropLife America stated last week the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act would be "creating additional unnecessary regulatory burdens for the agricultural community and applicators of pesticide products."

The rule would broaden the number of people would have to apply for discharger permits for pesticides. It also could infringe on the rights of states, said Jay Vroom, CropLife America's president and CEO.

CropLife called for Congress to move ahead and pass HR 935, a bill that would eliminate requirements for farmers to get discharge permits for spraying federally-approved pesticides.

Farm Bureau's Stallman stated that landowners would face problems with ordinary land uses.

“This is not just about the paperwork of getting a permit to farm, or even about having farming practices regulated. The fact is there is no legal right to a Clean Water Act permit—if farming or ranching activities need a permit, EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers can deny that permit," Stallman said." That’s why Clean Water Act jurisdiction over farmlands amounts to nothing less than federal veto power over a farmer’s ability to farm.

Stallman and Farm Bureau dismissed the value of the exemptions laid out by EPA, noting the exemptions only apply to "dredge and fill" permits. "They do not protect farmers from federal veto power over pest and weed control, fertilizer application, and other essential farming activities that may result in the addition of ‘pollutants’ to ‘navigable waters,’ -- providing one views every ditch and wet spot across the landscape as ‘navigable waters,' " Stallman said.

Stallman added that EPA is refusing to accept limits on the agency's authority that have been set by Congress and the Supreme Court. The court has repeatedly ruled that "navigable waters" does not mean all waters.

The proposed rule will soon open for a 90-day public comment period.

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RJZ Peterson 4/3/2014 | 3:27 PM CDT
This is a prime example of EPA employees trying to justify their jobs, or should I say secure their jobs even deeper. Why do we keep funding an agency that has completely lost all the respect from the ag community? Quit throwing/wasting money at the EPA and maybe, just maybe they might start focusing on REAL issues that actually matter. If or when will the general public realize that we can't afford to pay a bunch of people to do a bogus job creating bogus laws and regulations that cost us even more to be in compliance or in fines. Rediculous!! They need to focus on real issues that really matter.
Unknown 4/2/2014 | 1:31 PM CDT
I hope more stick up for our rights.