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Farm Bureau applauds new clean water rule proposal signed by EPA

EPAState Farm Bureau presidents from across the nation attended a Dec. 11 event at the EPA headquarters to witness the signing of the proposed Clean Water Rule.

The rule is intended to replace the contentious 2015 “Waters of the U.S.” rule that drew barbs from farmers and ranchers and, after several court rulings to block it, never went into effect nationwide.

“For more than five years we have advocated for a new water rule that protects clean water and provides clear rules for people and communities to follow,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “This new rule will empower farmers and ranchers to comply with the law, protect our water resources and productively work their land without having to hire an army of lawyers and consultants.”

Unlike the WOTUS rule, Duvall continued, “this new rule protects our resources, respects the law and provides greater clarity so the agencies and the public can identify regulated federal waterways. We will further analyze this new rule in the coming days and will suggest further refinements during the comment period.”

Ben Rowe, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation national affairs coordinator, explained that the old rule “was so broad and so vague that producers were left to guess whether a pond, ditch or low spot on their land was subject to federal regulation.” That uncertainty, he added, would create production and land management issues. “Under the 2015 WOTUS, the only way to get a definitive answer on the status of your property was through the courts system, something for which few farmers had the resources. Consequently, producers would have been cited and fined for such common activities as plowing fields or changing crops.”

VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor concurred. “We are committed to protecting Virginia’s and the region’s waterways,” he said, “but we need clear rules and fair warning” to comply with federal regulations.”