Farmers in Ohio are increasing soil sampling and managing soil nutrients more closely, leading to a gradual decrease in high soil test phosphorus levels that can lead to water quality problems.Read More
This week, Ohio Farm Bureau submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the agencies’ proposed rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS). These changes would significantly expand the land mass regulated by the federal government and would lead to costly and complex permitting requirements that small businesses and farmers aren’t equipped to navigate.
“The definition of WOTUS is critically important to Ohio farmers,” Farm Bureau stated in the letter. “Growing crops and raising animals are water-dependent enterprises. For this reason, farming in Ohio occurs on lands where there is either plentiful rainfall or an adequate water supply available for crop irrigation and animal watering. Across the Ohio agricultural landscape, there are many features that are wet only when it rains and that may be located many miles from the nearest ‘navigable’ water. Ohio farmers regard these features as low spots on farm fields.”
The letter emphasized Ohio Farm Bureau and its members’ disappointment about the agencies’ proposed rule, and reminded how the current Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) was clearly protecting Ohio’s lakes, rivers and streams.
“It provides Ohio farmers clarity and predictability by establishing clear bright line definitions, clarified the level of government, federal or state, responsible for overseeing water features and dry land that is occasionally wet, excluded ditches and areas where water collects after rain events as well as defined and excluded prior converted cropland as jurisdictional wetlands. The agencies should keep the NWPR in place, rather than revert to definitions of WOTUS that test the limits of federal authority,” the letter said.
Additionally, the comments highlighted how Ohio farmers are taking proactive, voluntary steps to conserve resources and protect water resources by working with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and NRCS to install conservation practices. The letter also pointed out how clean water regulations must continue to protect farmers’ ability to implement environmentally beneficial projects and conduct routine maintenance on their farms such as installing grass waterways and riparian buffers without the requirement to obtain a permit.
“Clarity and predictability are paramount,” the letter stated. “Farmers need a rule that draws clear lines of jurisdiction that they can understand without hiring consultants and lawyers. To ensure that law-abiding farmers and other landowners can understand and comply with the CWA, any definition of “waters of the United States” must provide clarity and certainty.”
There is still time to submit comments to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers. The deadline is Feb 7. Learn more about the issue and how to send your comments.
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