Farm Talk

April 1, 2014

EPA water proposal stirs ag controversy


CNHI

Parsons, KS — Proposed new language in the Clean Water Act has some farm groups charging the government is over-stepping its authority by expanding jurisdiction of “waters of the United States.”

The rule change was submitted jointly by the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers.

Calling the proposal “vast overreach,” the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) expressed concern that, essentially, all waters in the country would be subject to regulation by the EPA and the Corps, regardless of size or continuity of flow.

“This is a step too far, even by an agency and an administration notorious for over-regulation,” said NCBA President Bob McCan. “This proposal by EPA and the Corps would require cattlemen like me to obtain costly and burdensome permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout. These permits will stifle economic growth and inhibit future prosperity without a corresponding environmental benefit.”

On the other hand, some ag groups support the new language while others are still reviewing the proposal.

The National Farmer’s Union issued this statement:

“NFU has long advocated for increased certainty surrounding Clean Water Act requirements for family farmers and ranchers in the wake of complicating Sup-reme Court decisions. To-day’s draft rule clarifies Clean Water Act jurisdiction, maintains existing agricultural exemptions and adds new exemptions, and encourages enrollment in USDA (programs).

“In addition, farmers and ranchers who are voluntarily enacting certain conservation practices on their farms will be exempt from Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting requirements.”

In EPA’s announcement, the agency says agriculture will get special exemptions:

“The proposed rule preserves the Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agriculture. Additionally, EPA and the Army Corps have coordinated with the USDA to develop an interpretive rule to ensure that 53 specific conservation practices that protect or improve water quality will not be subject to Section 404 dredged or fill permitting requirements. The agencies will work together to implement these new exemptions and periodically review, and update NRCS conservation practice standards and activities that would qualify under the exemption. Any agriculture activity that does not result in the discharge of a pollutant to waters of the U.S. still does not require a permit.”

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt said the proposal is a threat to agriculture:

“This proposed rule would have a devastating impact on Missouri farm families, and it has serious implications for productive activities like dredging, filling, and drainage nationwide,” said Blunt.