By Courtney Briggs
No one knows the benefits of clean water better than our country’s farmers and ranchers. The food, fiber and fuel we produce to meet the needs of all Americans require clean water. The health of our most precious asset, our earth, requires clean water. And the well-being of our families and our communities also depends on clean water. However, the Biden administration’s new regulatory proposals will impose incredible burdens that will have unintended, but lasting consequences.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have proposed new regulations that would once again change the definition of “United States waters”. This regulation would repeal the navigable waters protection rule and reinstate the troubling pre-2015 WOTUS rule. If finalized, this rule would erase all of the clarity and certainty we’ve spent years working for and give agencies the ability to assert jurisdiction over arid lands that are miles from government-regulated water. federal. Agencies would have the ability to group waters together to capture entire watersheds as under jurisdiction. This is of great concern because it defeats the intent of Congress under the Clean Water Act and ignores the limitations imposed by Supreme Court precedents.
Farmers and ranchers want clean water and they need clear rules.
Many farmers and ranchers wonder, “What does this regulation mean to me? Quite simply, this rule is a game-changer for any landowner. This would greatly expand the universe of permits that farmers and ranchers would need to obtain. They would have to hire expensive environmental consultants and lawyers to navigate this overly complicated permitting process. This means more time, money and burdens for any business trying to comply. Farmers need to know exactly where the jurisdiction line lies because the stakes are high. Civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance have the potential to put them out of business or put them in jail.
One of the biggest pitfalls of this regulation is that it will inevitably discourage farmers and ranchers in our country from implementing many environmentally beneficial projects on their land. Farmers often undertake projects that provide erosion control, stormwater management, wildlife habitat, flood control, nutrient treatment, and improve overall water quality in uplands and ephemeral characteristics. We will likely see fewer of these projects because this proposed regulation would require landowners to obtain expensive federal permits to make these environmental improvements.
Unfortunately, this rule would exacerbate the affordability crisis we are experiencing in this country. This would make it more expensive for farmers, ranchers and many other businesses to bring their products to market at an affordable price due to the complex web of regulations they would have to navigate. That could put affordable food, safe housing and reliable power beyond the reach of some Americans.
EPA Administrator Regan pledged to consider the impact of a new water rule on farmers and ranchers, but fell short. It’s time for a new rule that will establish a clear and reasonable delineation of where water ends and land begins.
Farmers and ranchers want clean water and they need clear rules. Visit fb.org/wotus now to call on the EPA to withdraw this rule and return the clarity and common sense provided under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
Courtney Briggs is Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.