The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have issued their new Waters of the United States rule, and Indiana Farm Bureau’s reaction to this includes both disappointment and puzzlement.
“We are still examining the full impact of the new rule, but we are extremely disappointed the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have once again produced a rule that is overly complicated and will subject farmers to unnecessary and overreaching regulations,” said Jeff Cummins, director of state government relations, environment and natural resources for INFB.
“The way this rule is currently written, farmers will need a team of attorneys and consultants to identify ‘navigable waters’ on their land,” he added. “That’s ridiculous and unnecessary.”
What makes the new rule puzzling is that later this year the U.S. Supreme Court will be issuing a ruling on the scope of the Clean Water Act.
“A ruling on the Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency case could send WOTUS back to square one,” Cummins explained. “So issuing a new rule now makes no sense at all.”
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the new rule doubles down on the old “significant nexus” standard, creating more complicated regulations that will cause uncertainty on large areas of private farmland miles from the nearest navigable water.
The significant nexus standard attempts to establish whether smaller water bodies or wetlands have a chemical, physical or biological connection to larger, more traditional navigable waters such as rivers. If such a connection is established, the smaller water bodies become subject to the Clean Water Act.
“We appreciate the agencies’ attempt to provide needed clarifications to the prior converted cropland exclusion and exemptions for irrigation ditches and stock ponds, but the overall rule is still unworkable for America’s farm families,” AFBF added.
Indiana Farm Bureau and the Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation are participating in the Sackett case and have filed a “friend of the court” brief with the Supreme Court. Other Farm Bureaus and ag organizations also are active in this case.