Under the agencies’ proposal, traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those waters, certain ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments of jurisdictional waters and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters would be federally regulated.

It also details what are not “waters of the United States,” such as features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall, for example, ephemeral features; groundwater; many ditches, including most roadside or farm ditches; prior converted cropland; storm water control features; and waste treatment systems.

The agencies believe this proposed definition appropriately identifies waters that should be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act while respecting the role of states and tribes in managing their own land and water resources.

States and many tribes have existing regulations that apply to waters within their borders, whether or not they are considered “waters of the United States.”

Continue reading at AgriNews Publications…

Photo Credit: Tom C. Doran, AgriNews

AGRI-PULSE: 2019 Regulatory Preview: WOTUS tops agenda for ag groups

“People with any stake in the 2015 rule can go right to the proposal and know what’s in it,” said Don Parrish, senior regulatory affairs director at the American Farm Bureau Federation. Parrish pointed to the fact that EPA already received about 6,000 comments on a “pre-proposal.”

Parrish said AFBF is generally pleased with the proposal, but would like to see more clarity on how EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers intend to distinguish between intermittent and ephemeral streams. The former, which run seasonally, would be regulated if they contribute flow to traditional navigable waters, while the latter, which run in response to rain or snowfall, would not.

One important issue to be addressed in the coming debate is whether states are up to the task of assuming whatever jurisdiction over waters left unclaimed by EPA and the Corps.

For Parrish, the answer is obvious: The states can do the job. “People are crying foul, but the way our system works is under a federalist system. I’m of the opinion that people protect resources close to home.” At the state level, he said there are bills and regulations covering waters “every which way from Sunday.”

Continue reading at Agri-Pulse…

THE MEXICO LEDGER: Audrain Farm Bureau annual meeting highlights county improvements, Farm Bill, Republican political efforts

Bryan Nichols, field representative for Sixth Congressional District Rep. Sam Graves, noted the change to the Waters of the United States rule by the Environmental Protection Agency, announced Dec. 11. The rule change, which passed into law as part of an omnibus bill in May, is still in its public comment period, which will end in early February.

The change excludes stormwater and return flow runoff from farms like row crop fields from being considered unlawful unless it negatively impacts public health, wildlife, or industry and agricultural uses.

“Congressman Graves participated in that announcement at the EPA, and we’re excited about that. It makes it much more clear, and we’re not going to regulate ditches and streams and things like that, that don’t need to be regulated,” Nichols said.

Graves is now the ranking member on the transportation and infrastructure committee, which means he is the top Republican on the committee in the now Democrat-controlled House. Graves will be the chief Republican crafting infrastructure bills, Nichols said.

Continue reading at The Mexico Ledger…

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Opinion: Trump’s new water rule clarifies what I must do to keep Arizona’s water clean

Clean water is very important to me. I take seriously my role in ensuring that what I do on my farm protects our water resources. But paralyzing small businesses with uncertainty and “gotcha” enforcement of vague regulations is not the way to make the water any cleaner.

Clear rules will be more effective at protecting water and provide us with more honest, transparent government. That is the point of the new Clean Water Rule recently announced by the administration.

It’s the kind of rule we should all be able to support.

There’s a lot at stake here: protecting water quality, producing safe and affordable food, and preserving a strong economy and the hundreds of thousands of farming- and ranching-related jobs that our communities depend on.

It’s worth the time that the EPA and Corps have taken over the last two years to get this right.

Thankfully, the proposed new rule provides more clarity so farmers like me can do the right thing: comply with the law, protect the environment, and grow the crops and raise the livestock that feed our people and our economy. That’s why I ask that you join me to support clear rules for clean water.

Continue reading at The Arizona Republic…

Photo Credit: Jack Kurtz, The Republic

THE FREDERICK NEWS-POST: Opinion: The new clean water rule is out, but nothing’s changed

One of the major wins for America’s farmers and ranchers has proved to be quite controversial, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay region. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a new Clean Water rule, which would rescind the 2015 “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule under the Clean Water Act.

The 2015 rule never went into effect nationwide because of several court rulings that deemed it unconstitutional. A lack of clarity in the rule made it difficult for farmers and ranchers to know what they could or could not do on their land. Under the 2015 rule, flooded farmland in Maryland from the torrential rain we received this year could have been subject to federal oversight. A team of lawyers, environmental engineers, and consultants would have been needed to ensure we were farming in accordance with the law.

While this new rule relieves the burden of wondering if a sometimes-there, sometimes-gone swale, ditch, or pond on a farm is federally regulated, our commitment to conservation and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay has not wavered.

Continue reading at The Frederick News-Post…

THE HUTCHINSON NEWS: EPA and Army Corps of Engineers sign proposed WOTUS rule

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army signed a proposal redefining of the Waters of the United States Rule Dec. 11 to the approval of Kansas politicians and ag leaders.

The EPA was directed by an executive order from President Donald Trump to redefine the rule, which was originally implemented by the Obama Administration in 2015. Trump saw the regulations as burdensome.

The signing was the second step in a two-step process into getting a new rule in place next later this year. The rule will clarify the federal jurisdiction over U.S. waterways under the Clean Water Act — by pulling that jurisdiction back in regards to water like wetlands.

Sen. Jerry Moran praised the EPA’s action and said it will provide clarity for Kansas farmers and ranchers.

“This provides a welcome change from the overreaching Obama-era WOTUS rule by providing a sensible, clear definition that will result in better utilization of resources and cut red tape for Kansas producers,” Moran said. “I will work with the administration to make certain its implementation works for farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders.”

Ag leaders praised the proposed changes for clarifying the line between state and federal level.

Continue reading The Hutchinson News…

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH: Opinion: Adrian Smith: Looking back at a productive 2018

Earlier in December, President Trump issued a new rule to supplant President Obama’s vastly overreaching Waters of the U.S. rule which threatened the productivity of our farmers and ranchers. When President Obama’s EPA first issued the rule, I introduced a joint resolution to repeal it under the Congressional Review Act which easily passed both the House and Senate and forced a veto by President Obama. I appreciate President Trump’s efforts to shield our agricultural producers from overregulation and I look forward to putting this problem behind us for good.

Continue reading at The North Platte Telegraph…

CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE: Grant: Protecting water is a priority for Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers

Three years ago, when the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a flawed “waters of the U.S.” rule, I was wondering what this meant for our family ranch. Apparently, I had a lot of company. I don’t think there was a farmer or rancher in the West who could tell which ditches, gullies and low spots on our farms were suddenly regulated as “waters of the U.S.” We didn’t know if we would suddenly need permits and permission for the routine farming practices that we had been using for years on our land. Practices, including irrigating or pasture regeneration, that are beneficial to the ranch and the land.

As a Wyoming rancher, there are many things that I cannot control, like a late spring blizzard, drought or grasshopper plague. But we try to understand and plan ahead for government regulations. So, we started to look for answers on what the 2015 WOTUS rule really meant, and all we found was more confusion. Thankfully, the confusing 2015 rule was never fully implemented nationwide, as it was blocked by the courts within days of its effective date.

So I was excited when last week, the EPA proposed a new clean water rule to replace the flawed 2015 WOTUS rule. There are always details to sort out — and there may be room for improvement on the latest proposal, but at first look, there’s no question that this is good news for farmers and ranchers who have faced confusion and unclear rules like we have.

One of the best things that the new proposed Clean Water Rule provides is clarity. Clear rules will be more effective at protecting water and provide us with more honest, transparent government. This clarity helps ranchers know how “waters of the U.S.” are defined and protected. A rancher needs to be able to look across his or her ranch and be able to tell what is and isn’t a federally regulated waterbody. We shouldn’t have to hire a team of lawyers, environmental engineers and consultants to help us guess whether we can farm and ranch on our land.

Continue reading at Casper Star-Tribune…

INSIDE SOURCES: Opinion: Let’s Not Pollute our Waterways with Unnecessary Federal Regulation

Is it possible to have cleaner waterways across the country and, at the same time, less federal regulation? Fortunately, for a wide swath of the economy — from farming to mining, home building to construction — the answer is yes. Not just any water quality policy will accomplish these twin goals, however. It will be one that relies on common sense and acknowledges that states already lead in regulating their own waterways.

Thankfully, the Trump administration’s recent action to redefine the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) does just that. The revised WOTUS rule dramatically reduces the burdens placed on farmers and other property owners. It’s a positive step that rejects the heavy-handed, overzealous definition imposed during the Obama years that defined each body of water — whether they be ditches, gullies or isolated wetlands — as requiring protection under the Clean Water Act.

The prior definition of the waters of the United States not only overstepped the EPA’s legal authority, it puts far too much focus on marginal waters when our regulators should be focused on the rivers and other important waterways that need federal oversight. Refocusing the definition restores balance to local land use decisions, putting states back in the driver’s seat, and bringing logic and restraint back to an issue that had seemingly gone off the rails.

A simple question can be posed to illustrate: What will make a bigger difference to pollution prevention, regulating discharges into water that might be in your backyard only because of a heavy rain, or focusing on large bodies of water like rivers and bays?

Continue reading at Inside Sources…

Photo Credit: Staff

RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH: Wayne F. Pryor column: Farmers want clean water and clear rules

On Dec. 11, I joined the presidents of all 50 state Farm Bureaus at the EPA headquarters in Washington to announce a new proposed clean water rule to replace the flawed 2015 WOTUS rule.

As the rule is published in the Federal Register, the details will take some time to sort out, and there may be room for improvement on the latest proposal.

But there’s no question that this is good news for farmers who have faced a tangled web of confusing and unclear rules that left us uncertain of whether we can even farm our own land.

The 2015 WOTUS rule was so broad and vague that a farmer would have no idea whether any ditch, depression, or pond on his farm was subject to federal regulation.

But the uncertainty in the rule goes back decades. For too long, the only way to really know what features were protected has been to go to the U.S. Supreme Court — and few had the resources for that.

Meanwhile, farmers have been cited and fined for doing things as commonplace as plowing a field or switching crops, just because rainwater drains across the field.

Continue reading at Richmond Times-Dispatch…

Photo Credit: Wayne F. Pryor