Read Controversial Clean Water Act Rules!

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NORTHERN AG NETWORK NOTE:  To read the proposed rule yourself and submit your comments via the Federal Register, CLICK HERE.  Comments must be submitted on or before July 21, 2014.

The following is a press release from the Montana Farm Bureau Federation:

Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) is expressing strong opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grossly expanding government control of the Clean Water Act. The rules, which were released today, say normal farming, ranching and conservation activities, such as building fence, pruning shrubs and managing brush, could now all be under the jurisdiction of the EPA. 

“The Congress, as well as two decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, stated that agriculture did not need a permit for normal farming practices. That’s going to change if the EPA has their way,” says MFBF Vice President of Governmental Affairs John Youngberg. “EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would require farmers and ranchers to meet otherwise voluntary Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) standards for these everyday normal farming activities and voluntary conservation practices, or else face Clean Water Act liability. By linking the normal farming exemptions to NRCS standards, the rule would make voluntary conservation standards subject to EPA enforcement.” 

Concerns abound about alleged “exemptions” which the EPA has been touting as “not affecting ag.”  

“For example, one of those issues in the rules that would affect Montanans is the fact that only upland ditches are exempt from the list of waters of the United States.  Every ditch I can think of runs from a stream through a riparian area or flood plain to get to an upland ditch. I’m not sure where they think the water in an upland ditch is coming from,” says Youngberg. “This means ag loses that exemption because the entire ditch needs to be in the upland, there can’t be any tributaries draining into it.” 

Youngberg says another point is that the exemption only applies to 404 permits (dredge and fill), but does not exempt anyone from water quality issues even if the water does not return to surface water. “EPA’s new guidance on the “dredge and fill” exemption actually narrows an exemption that already existed, by tying it to mandatory compliance with what used to be voluntary NRCS standards,” Youngberg explains. 

He says the Clean Water Act was developed to protect navigable water ways, but the new rule would allow the federal government to regulate most ditches, small and remote “waters” and ephemeral drains where water flows only when it rains. Many of these areas are not even wet most of the time and look more like land than like “waters.” 

“Because of the proposed rule, farmers, ranchers and other landowners will face roadblocks to ordinary land-use activities—like fencing, spraying for weeds or insects, applying fertilizer, discing or even pulling weeds. The need to establish buffer zones around grassed waterways, ephemeral washes and farm ditches could make farmlands a maze of intersecting ‘no farm zones’ that could make farming impractical or prohibitively costly,” notes Youngberg. 

Youngberg says that the EPA and the Corps of Engineers have interpreted “normal” to mean only long-standing operations in place since the 1970s—not newer or expanded farming or ranching. “This poses a real blow to anyone who started ranching from the 1980s through today. This is the kind of unnecessary, overreaching regulations that will put our folks involved in agriculture out of business and scare off anyone hoping to start farming or ranching in the future.”








Source:  Montana Farm Bureau Federation

Posted by Haylie Shipp






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