In a move sending shockwaves through America’s agriculture community, the Biden administration says it plans to reverse and rewrite the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, signaling a return to the massive overreach of past regulations.
The EPA says it intends to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), claiming the change is needed to better protect water resources.
Repealing the current rules means farmers and landowners are once again under threat of regulations that severely restrict states’ rights and ability to manage their own waters -- potentially placing a crushing burden on agriculture.
Under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule put in place by the Trump administration, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have jurisdiction to regulate clearly defined categories of waters, with any water not regulated by the federal government being under the oversight of state and local municipalities.
These definitions gave farmers received much-needed certainty on which level of government controls land that is sometimes wet, specifically land in areas that should not be considered federal waters.
“We saw this in the rule defining waters of the U.S. in 2015: wet spots in fields, tiny isolated wetlands, agricultural drains, and mostly dry features on farmland were suddenly defined as regulated waterways,” said Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau Agriculture Ecology Department manager. “Michigan farmers strongly urge EPA and Administrator Michael S. Regan to take seriously the outreach and consultation the agency has promised with farmers and landowners and to craft a rule that protects water quality and helps farmers successfully produce our nation’s safe, abundant, and affordable food supply,” said Campbell.
The American Farm Bureau Federation says EPA Administrator Regan recently recognized the flaws in the 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule and pledged not to return to those overreaching regulations.
AFBF President Zippy Duvall said the EPA’s decision fails to recognize the concerns of farmers and ranchers and is urging U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to ensure the EPA does not write the term ‘navigable’ out of the Clean Water Act.
“The American Farm Bureau Federation is extremely disappointed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of its intention to reverse the environmentally conscious Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which finally brought clarity and certainty to clean water efforts,” said Duvall. “Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, and they support the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”