(Story updated 5/29 with Minnesota Farmers Union statement)
On Wednesday, the EPA finalized the Clean Water Rule, ensuring "waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry. The rule is grounded in law and the latest science, and is shaped by public input. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions."
“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”
However, many agriculture organizations feel the rule took it too far, and the EPA didn't take public comment into consideration before final ruling.
“As is the case with any expansive document, we need the time to determine the potential impacts of this rule for soybean operations in our 30 growing states before we decide how we want to respond. Our farmers and staff will analyze the rule and we will make a full statement once we’ve done so.
“It bears repeating, however, that we haven’t been given an opportunity to comment on EPA’s revision of the rule. We voiced strong opposition to the original version, and while we are encouraged by the agency’s willingness to revisit the rule and potentially address farmer concerns, we are very much in a ‘trust but verify’ mode. ASA needs to establish that the rule does not affect everyday soybean farming operations, and we are now in the process of making that determination. If we find that the rule does not live up to the promises made by EPA, we must have an opportunity to submit comments to the agency to that effect.”
Wade Cowan, American Soybean Association president
“We cannot comment on the specifics of the revised rule until we have had a chance to fully review it. We especially want to ensure that the broad promises made in the EPA press release are carried out in the text of this comprehensive rule.
“With the earlier round of proposed rules, NCGA was concerned that the earlier proposed rule represented a significant expansion of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction relative to anything that has ever been in rulemaking before. We especially will look closely at how on-farm ditches, ponds and puddles are treated in the rule.
“As in the past, we will work with EPA as much as possible to ensure we have rules in place that are clear and workable for farmers.”
Chip Bowling, National Corn Growers Association president
While NCBA and PLC are reviewing the details of the final rule, the entire process has been flawed and must be set aside; the final rule poses an unnecessary threat to private property owners and cattle producers across the country. The only fix is to start over with all stakeholders' input and direction from Congress.
"This is a clear indication there is no intention of considering the concerns of those most impacted by the rule."
Philip Ellis, National Cattleman's Beef Association president
"The EPA has been spending taxpayer dollars employing a grassroots lobbying campaign, hiding information, dismissing concerns from stakeholders, and holding closed-door meetings with environmental activists. There is no question that this rule will infringe on private property rights and usurp state authority over land and water use. Ambiguous language included will only serve to further jam courtrooms across the country with jurisdictional challenges."
Brenda Richards, Public Lands Council president
"We are undertaking a thorough analysis of the final WOTUS rule to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency listened to the substantive comments farmers and ranchers submitted during the comment period.
"Based on EPA's aggressive advocacy campaign in support of its original proposed rule-and the agency's numerous misstatements about the content and impact of that proposal-we find little comfort in the agency's assurances that our concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way.
"The process used to produce this rule was flawed. The EPA's proposal transgressed clear legal boundaries set for it by Congress and the Courts and dealt more with regulating land use than protecting our nation's valuable water resources.
Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation president
“We weren’t in favor of the first rule, and this one seems just as complicated. It is important that there is discussion before the ruling is made, with better vetting with farmers. There are different set of consequences for the state of Minnesota, we are covered under the MN Wetland Protection Act (WCA), which already regulates certain drainage systems and certain types of wetlands. Adding a new rule will complicate how family farmers are treated on water issues.”
According to the EPA, the rule does not change the exemptions that apply to agriculture, but there are still definitions and clarity that need to be made on what waters are protected and which are exempt.
Minnesota Farmers Union appreciates the EPA’s work, and offers a special thanks to EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy for taking the time to meet with MFU, to hear our concerns prior to this ruling coming out. However we remain concerned about the protection of private waters and ditches. The vagueness that concerns us is in prairie pothole region. The declaration is that the rule would cover prairie potholes, ditches and other unique water bodies, but only if they meet the definition of a tributary, which means they contribute to downstream water flow. We take issue with decision that would be determined on a case by case basis on how it affects the whole water system.
MFU will continue to analyze the nearly 300-page document and hope that the EPA will continue to clarify intent before the rule becomes law.
Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union president