Agriculture Reacts Angrily to WOTUS Rule

May 28, 2015 07:00 AM
Agriculture Reacts Angrily to WOTUS Rule

If the EPA thought that its latest version of the “Waters of the U.S.” rule might find favor with farmers and ranchers, the agency knows better now.

The agriculture community reacted swiftly—and angrily—to the revised rule, which was released Wednesday morning.

“America’s farmers and ranchers deserve a government that will review and address their concerns,” said U.S. Rep. K. Michael Conaway, who chairs the House agriculture community, and U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, who leads the forestry subcommittee. “Instead, the process by which this rule was established ignored them. Even input from the states was ignored, clearly displaying the arrogant, ‘government knows best’ attitude ever-present in this Administration.”

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) didn’t hold back either. “Today, the Obama Administration released the damaging ‘Waters of the U.S.’ finalized rule – a regulation is opposed by virtually every farm organization, commodity group and other business interests in rural America. I am sorry to say, as expected, the rule is bad news for rural America,” he said. “As Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, I’m proud to champion agriculture. We will lead the charge in pushing back against EPA’s egregious federal overreach.”

Watch Sen. Roberts' response here:

Fellow U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) didn’t like the newfound federal regulatory protection for water features like prairie potholes, which are shallow wetlands located in the Upper Midwest. Such designation “threatens these regions’ agriculture, construction, energy and other industries with new permitting requirements and litigation,” he said.

A recent article suggesting the EPA may have violated its own advocacy guidelines in its Waters of the U.S. efforts has only deepened the skepticism toward the rule amongst those in ag.

According to an article published May 18, 2015, in The New York Times, “late last year, the E.P.A. sponsored a drive on Facebook and Twitter to promote its proposed clean water rule in conjunction with the Sierra Club. At the same time, Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group with deep ties to Mr. Obama, was also pushing the rule. They urged the public to flood the agency with positive comments to counter opposition from farming and industry groups. The results were then offered as proof that the proposal was popular.”

That does not sit well with Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which plans to look very carefully at the new regulations.  

“Based on EPA’s aggressive advocacy campaign in support of its original proposed rule – and the agency’s numerous misstatements about the content and impact of that proposal – we find little comfort in the agency’s assurances that our concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way,” Stallman said in a statement. “…EPA’s decision to mount an aggressive advocacy campaign during the comment period has tainted what should have been an open and thoughtful deliberative process. While we know that farmers and ranchers were dedicated to calling for substantial changes to the rule, we have serious concerns about whether their comments were given full consideration.”

The resistance to the rule has been widespread in agriculture, from commodity crop farmers to ranchers and dairy farmers, and many sound a wee wary of this latest version.

“We voiced strong opposition to the original version, and while we are encouraged by the agency’s willingness to revisit the rule and potentially address farmer concerns, we are very much in a ‘trust but verify’ mode,” said Wade Cowan, the Texas farmer who is also president of the American Soybean Association. “ASA needs to establish that the rule does not affect everyday soybean farming operations, and we are now in the process of making that determination.”

The National Corn Growers Association took a similar approach.

“We cannot comment on the specifics of the revised rule until we have had a chance to fully review it,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, who also farms in Maryland. “With the earlier round of proposed rules, NCGA was concerned that the earlier proposed rule represented a significant expansion of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction relative to anything that has ever been in rulemaking before. We especially will look closely at how on-farm ditches, ponds and puddles are treated in the rule. As in the past, we will work with EPA as much as possible to ensure we have rules in place that are clear and workable for farmers.”

What do you think of the revised Waters of the U.S. rule? Does it address your concerns? Give your opinion on the AgWeb discussion boards.

Back to news



Spell Check

Western, NE
5/28/2015 10:27 AM

  Wow! Some of the comments! The WOTUS rule from what I've read is so overreaching, it is pathetic. Seriously don't agree with the way EPA pushed to approve the rule--using Twitter and Facebook. At any rate, better judgment needs to be used at times by both sides. If we continue down the path that we are, US agriculture will give way to imported ag-products all the way around. Oh, I'm sorry, that's what the tree huggers want!!

Harold Smith
Ames, IA
5/28/2015 09:15 AM

  I hope these new regulations help stop the runoff of hog manure and fertilizer and agricultural chemicals into our creeks, ditches, streams and rivers. In my area, you can visibly see hog manure running off into ditches and streams in many areas. We have hog quad barns being permitted and built less than 500 feet uphill from streams - incredible. So much fertilizer and chemical runoff its hard to comprehend. Modern agriculture production is probably the biggest polluter in the US, so maybe these rich farmers and agribusiness should have to pay some type of tax on all the pollution and environmental damage they are causing for society. In my area, its not even safe to drink ground water from high nitrates from factory farm hog manure and fertilizer / chemical runoff. We have to hook up to the rural water service just to get clean drinking water. Modern agriculture and the land grant universities like Purdue, Iowa State, etc are completely out of touch. Why? - because they are bought and paid for by the big agribusinesses and rich farmers that are doing all the polluting, that's a fact.

Dave Burke
Smithfield, PA
5/28/2015 07:30 AM

  Why is it that no one seems to understand that the USA is being attacked by an enemy? This dictator idiot is deconstructing US from within. Race baiting, undermining our military, replacing key people with terrorist alined people, national debt at level to default because it is impossible to repay, killing the US Dollar, wait till China takes over as number one Reserve Currency, killing jobs by the millions, regulate, regulate while pushing for TPP. Wake the Hell up America !