New WOTUS Rule Could Push Input Costs Even Higher

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Reaction across American agriculture to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Waters of the U.S. Rule has not been positive. Reagan Giesenschlag, manager of government affairs with the Fertilizer Institute, says the new rule supposedly doesn’t go as far as earlier proposals in 2022.

“The final rule came out for it, but when they proposed it several months back, I think at beginning of 2022, it was a lot more extreme. It was a lot broader and brought a lot of things under its jurisdiction with a lot of certainty. And some of the tests that they use to determine what qualifies as jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act were broader and covered more lands in general, and this one does seem to be a bit pulled back from that. At least that’s how they’re messaging it right?”

While EPA is messaging the rule that way, the agency left a lot of “wiggle room” in implementing the rule. She says that will make things more challenging in the fertilizer industry.

“Sometimes, when we have to mine the necessary materials to make potash or phosphorus, we have to temporarily disturb wetlands or other, you know, aquatic features to extract those materials to produce the fertilizer. So that’s kind of where the fertilizer industry and WOTUS cross, and it will impact it in that way. Maybe some of these fertilizer expansion projects that USDA had the grant program for could potentially delay those depending on who gets awarded. There are things like that.”

While she doesn’t think the new regulation will limit farmers’ access to fertilizers, more regulation always means higher costs.

“I don’t think it’ll necessarily impact farmers’ access to inputs, but it could add the backside costs of producing that if somebody is trying to mine materials. It’s all about the targeting and the time and the cost to get those permits.”

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