Impacts of EPA’s WOTUS Rule are Negative
Farmers, ranchers and foresters take great pride in their stewardship of the land. They are the original conservationists. And while it may be popular among some to blame farmers and ranchers for any and every environmental concern that crops up, I know that nobody cares more for the environment than those who work the land every day. When a farm family’s livelihood depends on caring for natural resources, there is an undeniable economic incentive to adopt practices that enhance the land’s long-term viability.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has pursued an agenda seemingly absent of any recognition of the consequences for rural America and production agriculture. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is creating regulations that are burdensome, overreaching, and negatively affecting jobs and the rural economy.
Perhaps the most poignant example is the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ recent power grab with the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule or, as EPA likes to call it – the Clean Water Rule. I’ll be frank – this rule is not about clean water. Everyone wants and deserves clean water. This rule simply embodies EPA’s insatiable appetite for power. When EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before the House Committee on Agriculture in February, members of the Committee brought forth many concerns with the WOTUS rule. Numerous times, Administrator McCarthy brushed off their concerns with statements that were intended to assure us that farmers would have the same longstanding farming exemptions that were originally included in the Clean Water Act.
These verbal assurances give little comfort to farmers and ranchers who will face steep civil fines for any violation. While the EPA Administrator was telling the farming community they have nothing to fear with the new WOTUS rule, a California farmer was being prosecuted by the Justice Department for simply plowing his field.
The lawsuit brought against this producer claims that by plowing a field, which every farmer I know considers a normal farming practice, this farmer has created “mini mountain ranges” in his field. These mountain ranges are furrows from normal farming. The suit also claims this producer discharges a pollutant into a waters of the U.S. This so-called “pollutant” was the soil he was plowing.
These perceived violations only came to attention when an overzealous Corps bureaucrat “just happened to be driving by the property” and discovered perceived WOTUS violations on the land.
Regardless of the degree to which some deem government regulation justifiable, all regulations must be developed in a manner that is based on science and mindful of the economic consequences. This rule clearly was not. Farmers, ranchers and foresters believe the EPA is attacking them, and it is easy to understand why.
Instead of using the EPA and Corps’ preferred strategy of fear and intimidation, coupled with punitive enforcement and overreaching regulatory authority, we should be building on the successful approach taken in the 2014 Farm Bill and farm bills prior to protect our natural resources through voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs.
This is Chairman K. Michael Conaway’s prepared remarks for remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives, which intended to draw attention to the negative impacts of EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ regulations on farmers, ranchers and rural America.