IOWA AGRIBUSINESS RADIO NETWORK: Clean water rule comment period opened by EPA

For years, farm groups and producers made their voices heard about the proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama Administration. The EPA under the Trump Administration has tabled that rule and proposed a new WOTUS definition, and the comment period is open.

The new version of WOTUS considers concerns which farmers and Ag groups voiced about possible overreach by the EPA. Supporters of the new rule say it gives a much clearer definition of the jurisdiction of EPA and difference between land and navigable waters. We hear from American Farm Bureau Federation’s Don Parrish.

Continue reading at Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network…

Photo Credit: Clean Water Iowa

BROWNFIELD AG NEWS FOR AMERICA: Farm Bureau Urging Comments On New Clean Water Rule

Farm Bureau groups are galvanizing members to comment on the new Clean Water Rule.

Leslie Holloway, head of regulatory affairs with the Missouri Farm Bureau, tells members the new rule is better than the far-reaching Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule under the Obama administration, “This proposed rule is completely different from that. It IS a regulation but we are supporting it. It goes in the right direction.”

Holloway reminded Missouri Farm Bureau members at state headquarters Wednesday, that it’s been a long road, since the early 2000s, to get to a rule that will work for agriculture, “There WERE some regulations that would have actually put into the rule the decision that the U.S. Supreme Court made which was favorable to landowners so there wouldn’t be this overreach by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as EPA. But, unfortunately, that opportunity passed in 2000.”

Continue reading at Brownfield AG News for America…

Photo Credit: Brownfield AG Staff

RADIO 570 WNAX: EPA Opens Comment Period on WOTUS Rewrite

Late last week the public comment period started on the rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. Rule and will remain open until April 15. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Environmental Counsel Scott Yager says his group is in favor of the re-written regulation and will be filing comments supporting it.

He says several environmental groups have already pushed back against the rewrite.

Yager expects there could be upwards of a million comments made on the rule and eventually it may end up having to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yager says NCBA is encouraging their members to comment on the rule and to attend the EPA’s listening session on February 27 and 28 in Kansas City.

Continue reading at Radio 570 WNAX…

SPRINGFIELD BUSINESS JOURNAL: Opinion: Clean Water Rule a significant improvement for Missouri

After years of legal and political battling, the Trump administration is nearing the final stage of undoing President Obama’s overzealous Waters of the United States rule.

A far more reasonable regulation known as the Clean Water Rule would take its place. Between Feb. 14 and April 15, the Environmental Protection Agency is taking comments on the new rule through its website.

The Clean Water Rule would continue our decadeslong commitment to clean water for all Americans. The new language keeps protections in place while clarifying and simplifying definitions. This will help citizens follow the law and keep our water clean.

One of the Obama-era WOTUS rule’s biggest faults was its ambiguity. The language was very technical and theoretical. In practice, it was so ambiguous and complicated that a farmer could not just look at the features of his or her land and determine if the rules applied.

But expert environmental evaluations and legal opinions are extremely costly and violating the WOTUS rule carried potential fines of $37,500 per day. Most farmers could not afford either option. This could lead to widespread uncertainty or lack of compliance by good people who want to follow the law.

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In a statement to DTN, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the group supports the proposal.

“Today’s release of a new draft Clean Water Rule is a major step toward fair and understandable water regulation on America’s farms and ranches and other working lands,” Duvall said. “We haven’t yet examined every word of today’s proposal, but even a quick look shows many of the previous rule’s worst problems are on their way out.”

Agriculture and other industry groups raised concerns that the 2015 rule expanded federal jurisdiction of water and land, leading to a series of lawsuits.

Waters Advocacy Coalition, a lobbying coalition championing the new WOTUS rule, said the process in creating the new rule has been transparent.

“Over the past two years, the EPA and Army Corps have engaged with state, tribal, and local officials as well as affected stakeholders to propose a new clean water rule,” spokesman Arjun Mody said in a statement. “This proposed new clean water rule provides clarity on the scope of federal authority under the Clean Water Act and recognizes the primary responsibilities of states and tribes to manage their land and water resources.”

Continue reading at DTN The Progressive Farmer…

Photo Credit: DTN File Photo

THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE: Editorial: EPA rules on water are ridiculous overreach on landowners

Last December, the Trump administration presented a proposal to pull back many of the EPA’s cumbersome rules – among them, the Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, regulations. Those are rules regarding “navigable waters” that basically tell Americans what they can do with sometimes even the tiniest sprinkling of water on their property.

Under EPA rules set forth by President Obama in 2015, federal protection is extended, for example, to any stream created just by intermittent rainfall, or “wetlands” that really are no more than patches of soggy dirt.

“Putting WOTUS in rough terms,” wrote Burt Rutherford, an editor for the agriculture trade magazine BEEF, “the rule means that if a duck thinks it can land on it, any puddle is considered navigable and falls under jurisdiction of the federal government.”

A stretch? Not by much. Do those rules sound like they make even the tiniest bit of sense?

Continue reading at The Augusta Chronicle…

CAPITAL PRESS: Trumping’ regulation: Administration rolling back restrictions on agriculture

On the regulatory front, this administration is clearly better than the last, said Paul Schlegel, managing director of public policy for the Farm Bureau.

“There is a tendency to listen a little bit more in this administration and welcome input,” he said.

Outreach is better, and there’s a willingness to get a feel for what it means to own land and invest in equipment, he said.

“It’s a significant change. I think when people do listen they gain an appreciation of your view and don’t dismiss it out-of-hand,” he said.

Waters of the U.S.

The Farm Bureau has focused on changes to several regulatory issues, with the Waters of the U.S. at the top of the list, he said.

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the controversial WOTUS rule, which greatly expanded federal authority over waters protected under the Clean Water Act.

More than 30 states sued the federal government, and the Farm Bureau and farmers were involved in litigation as well, he said.

In December, the Trump administration proposed a new WOTUS rule, which it says will bring certainty to farmers and ranchers that they’re not going to face enforcement for what they do on their land and features such as a low spot that temporarily holds water after a rain won’t be subject to regulation, he said.

“It’s a more balanced and reasonable interpretation of the statute. It’s tremendously important,” he said.

Reining in WOTUS is also a top priority for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“That’s one (issue) where we’re seeing repeal and replace — that’s huge,” Scott Yager, NCBA’s chief environmental counsel, said. “It’s one of the biggest issues; it regulated just about anything out there.”

It was also intentionally ambiguous to give agencies carte blanche to interpret the rule however they want, he said. The rule would have applied federal protection to every stock pond, farm ditch, seasonal stream and dry wash in the country, he said.

It was a broad over-expansion of the Clean Water Act, which would have resulted in every farm and ranch falling under its purview. That would have a direct impact on producers in time and money to comply, get permits and hire consultants and engineers, he said.

Replacing the rule is taking longer than NCBA had hoped, but it’s happening. The administration came out with a new rule that includes some really good things, he said.

“It provides clean water and clear rules,” he said.

Continue reading at Capital Press…

Photo Credit: USDA

THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE: Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler outlines deregulation

A Dearing plant nursery was the backdrop for acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler to outline proposed changes to the “Waters of the U.S.” rule that determines which waters are subject to federal regulation.

Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, has served as acting EPA administrator since the July resignation of Scott Pruitt amid various controversies related to excessive personal spending.

The proposed changes, cheered by farmers in the audience, are intended to allow a landowner “to tell if water is federal without having to hire outside professionals,” Wheeler said. “I say that as a former outside professional.”

The changes leave six categories of water considered waters of the U.S.: navigable waters, tributaries, some ditches – used for navigation or affected by tides – certain lakes and ponds, impoundments and wetlands connected to the previous five, Wheeler said.

The changes also define what is not a water of the U.S.: waters caused only by rain, groundwater, many roadside and farm ditches, converted cropland and stormwater control features, he said.

Continue reading at The Augusta Chronicle…

BUILDER: Opinion: Builders To Benefit From Revised WOTUS Rule

Builders scored a major victory at the end of 2018 when the Trump administration released its proposed new definition for the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. This revised rule is a welcome reprieve from the 2015 WOTUS definition, which was confusing and a huge encroachment of federal authority.

From the moment the 2015 regulation was proposed, NAHB fought it with our typical vigor. We engaged legislators and regulators, emphasizing how this rule was inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent and congressional intent. We also played a vital role in litigating WOTUS-related cases in the court system.

The administration heard us loud and clear. This proposed new WOTUS definition fulfills President Donald Trump’s commitment to the NAHB to end the 2015 rule. One of his earliest acts in office was to sign an executive order directing the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin to repeal and replace the previous definition. This action honored a campaign promise he made to the NAHB Board of Directors in 2016 when he was running for president, and we offered critical insight as the proposal was being developed.

The new definition would provide much-needed clarity regarding which waters fall under federal oversight. This would help accelerate the permitting process, which in turn will allow home builders to more easily provide affordable housing. As our nation deals with a major housing affordability crisis, we need these types of reasonable, common-sense regulations that do not unnecessarily raise home prices.

Continue reading at Builder…

Photo Credit: Builder Staff

THE INTER-MOUNTAIN: Opinion: Protecting your backyard

Our office also remains actively involved in arguments to undo the Obama-era WOTUS rule, a regulation that, like the job-killing Power Plan, we stopped in its tracks.

That crucial victory blocks the federal government from using the Obama-era rule to take control over almost any body of water, such as isolated streams, dry creek beds, gravel pits, hundred-year floodplains and roadside ditches. That Obama-era rule tried to regulate your backyard ditch in a manner consistent with how the federal government regulates the Potomac, the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers.

It seems pretty obvious that “water” should not be defined in such a way that the federal government acts like a national zoning board.

There needs to be a sensible, predictable definition so that everyone knows when and if they will be subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

Continue reading at The Inter-Mountain…