“It’s time to ditch the rule!” said New York Farm Bureau State Associate Director of Public Policy and National Affairs, Elizabeth Wolters, who spoke at an annual October Farm Bureau meeting.
Wolters joined NYFB District 8 Director Dean Casey to inform attendees about updates on important issues concerning farmers across the state. Standing out among those issues was the proposed regulation by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expanding its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to include the power to dictate use of land decisions and farming practices, in or near puddles, ponds, ditches, isolated wetlands and land that floods during heavy rain — but is normally dry. The rule would cause more difficulties to farmers who need to change farming operations to remain profitable.
The EPA defends its stand by saying that they are “clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act”. However, according to Farm Bureau, they are broadening the definition of the types of waters and lands subject to federal permit requirements, while limiting farming practices and other land use.
“EPA’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ proposed regulations are a blatant attempt by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to expand their jurisdiction, and could affect the ability of a farmer to perform even basic tasks like putting up fence posts,” said Wolters, explaining that the types of farm practices that would be prohibited by the EPA are the same practices that farmers and ranchers frequently use. Some of these practices, such as building fences across ditches, applying fertilizer and pesticides, or even pulling weeds could require a federal permit — and this proposed rule would give the EPA veto authority.
“New York Farm Bureau has challenged the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers on its proposed rule changes that we believe is an overreach of the Clean Water Act. The confusing and vague language in the new definition opens up the potential for dry land and ditches to now be considered federally controlled waters. The bureaucratic nightmare and costly permitting process that this would create would not only impact agriculture across this state but also local taxpayers and homeowners who would be subject to additional federal regulations, permits and expensive fines.”
As of Sept. 22, 2014 many town and county board of legislators have opposed this proposed rule.
“Thirty-five counties and 19 towns have passed resolutions opposing the rule and we have 2,000 signed postcards from New York as part of the NYFB/AFBF postcard campaign against the rule,” said Wolters.
Go to http://ditchtherule.fb.org for more information on this important issue, or call your county Farm Bureau representative. Wolters may be reached at 518-431-5632.
The EPA has extended the comment period on this issue from Oct. 20 to Nov. 14.