Amena H. Saiyid
A draft rule asserting broader Clean Water Act jurisdiction over U.S. waters
and wetlands does not necessarily reflect the final position of the
Environmental Protection Agency, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a farm
group Jan. 13.
“We have been assured by the EPA that the draft rule that
was leaked, that was unfortunately leaked, does not necessarily reflect the
position of the EPA,” said Vilsack, reiterating the administration's claim made
in November by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy before a House Science, Space
and Technology Committee hearing .
“We need to wait and see what comes
out of EPA,” Vilsack told participants at the American Farm Bureau
Federation's annual convention, which runs Jan. 10-15 in San Antonio.
Vilsack told the farm bureau that he had conveyed their concerns to the EPA
regarding “the real-world impact” of the joint EPA-U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers draft rule that is currently undergoing interagency review at the
White House Office of Management and Budget. Bloomberg BNA obtained that draft
rule in November .
The draft rule, which is due out in proposed form
this year, seeks to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States”
subject to Clean Water Act protections and would include most natural and
artificial tributaries as well as wetlands that are adjacent to or neighboring
to larger downstream waters. The rule also would allow the agencies to
consider the aggregate effect of geographically isolated wetlands and other
waters on downstream waters.
farm bureau is among the groups charging that the language in the draft
proposal amounts to an overreach by the federal government into the regulation
of water bodies that should be left up to the states.
A day earlier,
Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman warned the Obama Administration that the
nation's farmers and ranchers are prepared to “battle” the EPA's efforts to
broaden its regulatory reach under the Clean Water Act.
EPA through its
draft rule is proposing to extend Clean Water Act authority to “nearly every
water body in the country, whether it is navigable or not,” Stallman said in a
keynote address at the start of the convention. “Heck, under this rule, EPA
would regulate so-called 'waters' that aren't even wet most of the time. We're
talking dry ditches.”
Stallman said the farm bureau would appeal a district court ruling that upheld
a pollution reduction plan that EPA wrote in 2010 to regulate discharges of
nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to prevent water quality impairment of the
In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit,
Stallman said the farm bureau is appealing the district court decision that
upheld the total maximum daily loads plan for the Chesapeake Bay. He said the
bay TMDL plan would give the federal government the power “to shut down farms,
halt development, and cripple municipalities in the name of improving water
quality” (Am. Farm Bureau Fed'n v. EPA, 3d Cir., No. 13-04079, appeal
filed 10/16/13; .
Moving onto privacy
issues, Stallman said the farm bureau has “deeper concerns” that the federal
government is turning over farmers' personal information to what he termed
“activist groups--groups that can use the information to target farmers and
their families--because the activists don't like what a farmer grows or how he
He vowed that the group would defend the privacy of poultry
and livestock operations run by farmers and ranchers against Freedom of
Information Act requests filed by environmental groups seeking information
regarding the management of animal waste from small livestock operations.
In July 2013, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork
Producers Council sued the EPA in the U.S. District Court for the District of
Minnesota. The purpose of the lawsuit was to prevent EPA from re-releasing the
names, home addresses, global positioning system coordinates, and personal
contact information of owners and operators of concentrated animal feeding
operations in 29 states, and releasing such information in six other states in
response to FOIA requests filed by environmental groups (Am. Farm Bureau
Fed'n v. EPA,D. Minn., No. 13-1751, 7/5/13; .
He also said the farm bureau would continue to fight the EPA
over making sure that agriculture stormwater runoff from farmyards remains
exempt from Clean Water Act permitting requirements.
In a separate case,
the farm bureau is backing a West Virginia farmer, Lois Alt, who successfully
sued EPA for requiring Clean Water Act discharge permits for stormwater runoff
containing litter and manure from the farmyard. EPA is appealing the outcome of
this lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Alt v.
EPA, 4th Cir., No. 13-2534, appeal filed 12/23/13).
also urged the Congress to pass the Water Resources Development Act, which
would fund water projects critical to transporting crops across state lines,
and the farm bill that would set prices for commodity crops, streamline
policies for commodities, dairy products, crop insurance, nutrition, forestry
programs. Lawmakers in both chambers have nearly completed their negotiations
in reconciling competing versions of both bills.
“Whether it's a
regulatory, legal or legislative issue, just think how much farm bureau could
achieve if everyone were like Lois Alt-- looking beyond our own individual
interests, taking a long-term view, and taking a stand for America's farmers
To contact the reporter on this story: Amena
H. Saiyid in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible
for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
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