For the past five years, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has been telling lawmakers to “ditch the rule,” a reference to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule under the Clean Water Act. This year, AFBF President Zippy Duvall has changed the chant to “clean water, clear rules.”
Duvall, in his annual opening address to the AFBF Convention, told Farm Bureau members from across the country that the fight over how EPA defines Waters of the U.S. is still ongoing, even though the administration of President Donald Trump has submitted a new rule which more clearly defines what waters are, and are not, regulated by the Clean Water Act. EPA released the new proposed rule that would replace the Obama-era WOTUS definition in early December. The new rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register due to the government shutdown, but once it is, the proposal will be open for public comment.
“That comment period’s not just for us that believe in this new rule,” Duvall told the AFBF audience. “It’s for everybody to comment. And let me tell you something, environmentalists hate this new rule. They like the old one… They’re going to come out in force and try to defeat this new rule and get it withdrawn.”
Duvall said the new version of WOTUS meets the requirements he gave to former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
“It needs to be one or two pages,” Duvall said he told Pruitt. “It needs to have clear definitions and a farmer needs to be able to take it, put it in his truck, ride across his farm and say ‘yes, I know that’s waters of the U.S.’ and ‘no, that puddle’s not.”
Duvall said the new WOTUS rule was just one element of what he considers “one of the most productive agricultural policy years in our history.” He cited tax reform and changes to the estate tax, the 2018 Farm Bill and progress on the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the South Korea trade agreement as keys to the legislative success in 2018.
Duvall also called on President Trump to seek solidarity with other countries in the trade battle against China.
“The trade war on China is going to be a long one, and we keep delivering the message ‘we’re with you Mr. President, we understand it,’” Duvall said. “But we need to make sure the rest of the world is helping you because China’s not just mistreating us, they’re mistreating the whole world, and we need partners.”
But he warned the president, “The runway of our patience is going to be determined by the financial situation on our farms, and we went into this battle very weak.”
The convention in New Orleans marks the 100th anniversary of Farm Bureau. President Trump will address Farm Bureau members on Monday.
Watch AFBF President Zippy Duvall address policy issues in the video player above and watch him share highlights of the 100 year history of Farm Bureau in the video player below.