EPA water proposal concerns farmers

Sep 05, 2014

EPA proposes new rules that would change what is considered to be “Waters of the U.S.”

By Jean-Paul McDonald, Farms.com

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers have come under fire from farm groups and agricultural organizations across the country for a joint proposal to alter what constitutes as navigable waters in the United States. The changes proposed would clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 21, 2014 and is open to a public comment period for 182 days, ending on Monday, October 20, 2014.

The controversial proposal would add additional water features under “navigable waters”, including water that pools on dry land after a storm, water that runs off in ditches, temporary water ways such as those formed by snow melt and other bodies of water that they would consider to be tributaries.

While the EPA already provides exemptions for many day-to-day activities performed on agricultural operations, the proposal would create new rules that would most certainly cause chaos for farmers and ranchers. Under the new proposal, certain farmlands – including land with standing rain water after a storm, for example, could be considered bodies of water, and thus would be under the control of the EPA. Many in the agriculture industry consider this to be a gross overreach on the part of the agency.

If the new rules go into effect, farmers may need to acquire permits in order to apply fertilizers and pesticides in fields that may have pooled water as the result of rain, or for construction work that may be in an area that is temporarily occupied by water.

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