Farmers Need To Read Proposed Clean Water Act Changes


According to two experts in water regulations – there are two things farmers need to realize about a new regulation the Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release in the coming weeks. First – the new rule EPA is proposing would greatly increase the scope of the Clean Water Act – making it of enormous importance to farmers across the country. Second – is the need for grassroots action. According to American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Director of Regulatory Relations – EPA and Congress need to hear from farmers. He says grassroots action will be hugely important on this issue.
The Clean Water Act started as a non-partisan piece of legislation designed to reduce water pollution in the nation’s navigable rivers and streams back. That was in 1972 – when discharging raw sewage into rivers and streams was standard practice across the country. The act set up a regulatory program that required permits that limited the volume of pollutants. Since that time – EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have attempted to expand the scope of the program – particularly by expanding the definition of navigable waters or water of the United States beyond rivers and streams to include such things as isolated ponds and wetlands, ditches and even temporary water features caused by runoff and seasonal flooding.
Parrish and Environmental and Natural Resources Attorney Virginia Albrecht say not all of EPA’s efforts to expand the definition have succeeded. But they say the new rule – in its current form – would go even farther. There is no exemption for all standard farm practices and there is no exemption for isolated or manmade water features such as ditches. In fact – Albrecht says ditches are explicitly included in the proposal. The rule is expected to be released and opened for comment in the next few weeks. During that comment period – Parrish says it’s vital for farmers to comment. He says they also need to talk with their members of Congress – even after the comment period is over.