Farm country expresses concerns as WOTUS rulemaking process begins
The EPA has officially kicked off the rulemaking process to create new regulations for Waters of the U.S.
Nearly 170 people were online to listen or share their thoughts on how the EPA should regulate WOTUS. Several state farm groups were represented, including Illinois.
“We feel like every minute we spend retreading the same ground on this issue just digs a bit of a deeper divide in farm country between our members and each of the agencies, so it takes time away from time when we could spend with working alongside all of the agencies to actually implement efforts to improve our water qualities,” Lauren Lurkins with the Illinois Farm Bureau explains.
Jim Sipes, a Kansas Farm Bureau Member, said that it does not make sense to regulate historically drier areas, where rain just soaks straight into the ground.
According to Sipes, “As a result, the regulations on our ditches or dried creek beds just hinder the ability of farmers and ranchers to do what they do best-- care for the land and raise crops and livestocks. Farmers and ranchers cannot afford to get bogged down in an expensive and lengthy permitting process, we care about the clean water and preserving our land. We shouldn’t need teams of lawyers and consultants to farm our land.”
But, not everyone on the call was supportive of agriculture, Wally Taylor with the Iowa Sierra Club called for a return to the 2015 version of the rule.
“There are false claims that the WOTUS rule put farmers out of business, and that every little puddle or tire rut after rain will be regulated by the federal government under the 2015 rule, but there’s been no credible evidence that I’ve seen any of those allegations are true,” Taylor states. “I would encourage the EPA and the Corps to make sure that the record is set straight on that.”
Later in the call, Jim Kukowski, a Minnesota soybean farmer, shared an example of how farmers could suffer financially under the former rule.
“I applied for a NRCS clarification of a wetland. It was not, it was previously drained, it was mismarked. It took over seven years for NRCS to get this straightened out,” he states. “The reason I was told because the 2015 rule was not easy to follow.”
EPA officials on the call said that they plan to submit two rules. The first would overturn the current rule and revert to the regulations in place prior to both the 2015 and 2020 versions. The second rule would then be their new version of the regulation.