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Ag groups stand ground on slippery water rule



If enacted, the 2015 Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulatory change to the Clean Water Act of 1972 would give the agency the ability to regulate ditches, like the one pictured above, and most other small water features on privately held land.
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There are times when a legislative or regulatory proposal is being considered and there’s no option except to draw a line in the sand. For agriculture, there have been a few of those industry-changing issues over the years.

In 2012, a proposal from the U.S. Department of Labor sought to bring sweeping changes to how and when farm children would be allowed to participate in agricultural work. After a massive response from farmers large and small, the Department of Labor, in consultation with the Obama Administration, decided to withdraw the proposed rule. This was one of the victories.

For every success story about how agriculture has overcome burdensome government regulation or legislation, there are others waiting in the wings that aren’t always quite as encouraging. Every year, new regulations go on the books that can, and do, affect farmers from coast to coast.

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a regulatory change to the Clean Water Act, a law that was passed in 1972. The proposed change would have more broadly interpreted what waters fall under the regulatory authority of the United States. It became referred to as the WOTUS rule, meaning “waters of the United States.” The expansion meant the federal government would no longer only regulate waters throughout the country which were navigable. The new proposal gave the agency the authority to regulate any tributary or water that could potentially pollute a tributary. If enacted, the proposal would give EPA the ability to regulate ditches and most other small water features. Some argue it would give them the ability to regulate any inch of American soil that comes in contact with rain water. The proposal is obviously very alarming to farmers, who would be affected most.

This year, the Trump Administration introduced a new proposal to fully rescind the rule. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery even praised the decision in a press release earlier this summer. Anyone who wished to submit comments on the proposal must have done so before the comment period ended on September 27. Co-op stores were given the opportunity to display cards and informational sheets to encourage members to comment. Tennessee Farmers Cooperative submitted comments supporting the proposal to fully rescind the rule. In addition to TFC, the new proposal is being supported by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, American Farm Bureau Federation, and virtually every other agriculture group.

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