More than ag upset with WOTUS

Published on: 15:39PM Jul 18, 2014

Pro Farmer Extra

- From the Editors of Pro Farmer newsletter -

July 18, 2014

Today's perspective is by Pro Farmer News Editor Meghan Pedersen and Washington Consultant Jim Wiesemeyer.

More than ag interests upset with WOTUS

The waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule that tries to spell out the scope of the Clean Water Act remains under siege. The ag industry, lawmakers and environmental interests have all taken issue with components of WOTUS and its accompanying interpretive rule that defines 56 ag practices exempt from permitting requirements. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy has expressed surprise at the level of concern generated about the interpretive rule and has indicated she may be willing to pull it back. But the administration says her agency needs time to address objections to the rule. It is increasingly apparent EPA and the Army Corps would have saved face and headache if they had consulted stakeholders and USDA prior to releasing the rules.

Ag interests have expressed worries that voluntary measures approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) would become mandatory under the interpretive rule, while environmental groups are unhappy about the farmer exemptions from dredge-and-fill permitting requirements. Groups like the Association of State Wetlands Managers (ASWM) say some of the practices that are now exempt from permitting could violate state water quality standards if they are practiced without oversight.

Lawmakers have also taken action on the matter. Provisions in the House’s Energy and Water spending bills would block the proposed rule for one year and would broaden ag exemptions to the law’s Section 404 permitting requirements. A House panel advanced a separate bill that would block implementation of the proposed rule and would repeal the interpretive rule. The measure would also require EPA to consult with state and local officials on the issue and report recommendations for a consensus proposal to Congress.

Pressure from all sides is mounting, especially on the interpretive rule. This may increase odds EPA will pull it.

Follow Pro Farmer Editorial Director Chip Flory on Twitter: @ChipFlory

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