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Farm Bureau: Ditch the U.S. EPA’s proposed water rule
by Amy Beth Graves
Everyday farming practices, including fence building, planting and fertilizer application, could be affected by a proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule to expand federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
In March the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued its proposed rule, which would expand the definition of "Waters of the United States" under the CWA and give them jurisdiction over almost all areas with a hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters, including ditches.
More than half the members of the U.S. House of Representatives -- including 11 from Ohio -- signed a letter urging the EPA and Corps to reconsider its proposed rule. Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge sent her own letter.
In the bipartisan letter, the members of Congress said the proposed rule was based on an incomplete scientific study and a “flawed” economic analysis. They also said it would contradict previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
“Contrary to your agencies’ claims, this would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which imposed limits on the extent of federal CWA authority. Although your agencies have maintained that the rule is narrow and clarifies CWA jurisdiction, it in fact aggressively expands federal authority under the CWA while bypassing Congress and creating unnecessary ambiguity,” according to the letter signed by 231 House members.
American Farm Bureau has launched a “Ditch the Rule” campaign to get members at the national, state and local levels to take action against the proposed rule change. AFBF policy says “federal CWA authority should be limited to navigable streams and waterways that have continuous flow.”
“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,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said.
“Clean Water Act jurisdiction over farmlands amounts to nothing less than federal veto power over a farmer’s ability to farm,” he said.
Public comments on the rule will be accepted through July 21. AFBF has asked the deadline be extended from 90 days to 180 days because it comes during planting season for many farmers.
Take action now to stop this overreach
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trying to expand its federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, bypassing Congress and ignoring U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
The EPA has proposed expanding its regulatory authority by expanding the definition of “waters of the United States.” That means the EPA would be able to regulate small and remote waters, many of which are only seasonally wet or only wet after a heavy rain. The EPA says these small and remote waters could connect and possibly impact rivers downstream.
If the proposed rule passes, there could be a wave of new regulations or outright prohibition on farming practices and other land uses.
If you’re not already following Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) rules, the following practices could require a federal permit under the proposed rule:
- Building a fence or mowing grass across a ditch
- Applying fertilizer or pesticides to fields
- Discing or pulling weeds
- Clearing brush or pruning trees
As you can see, the EPA could micromanage everyday farming practices -- some of which don’t have an actual effect on water quality.
Do your part in telling the EPA to ditch its rule by:
Answering three quick questions and then telling us how the proposed rule will affect your operation. Ohio Farm Bureau will be using responses to create our comments to the EPA to make sure your voice is heard.
Use traditional and social media to bring attention to the issue. Visit http://ditchtherule.fb.org/ for background information and social media tips.
Amy Beth Graves is a communications specialst for Ohio Farm Bureau