Water rule: NCBA supports FRRCC’s position on WOTUS recommendations
Washington, D.C. – In a press release dated Jan. 14, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) announced support for a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Advisory Committee (FRRCC).
The recommendations were discussed by Scott Yager, NCBA chief environmental counsel, in the press release. Mary-Thomas Hart, NBCA environmental counsel, provided further comments in a Beltway Beef podcast dated Jan. 14.
On Jan. 12, the FRRCC released a final report containing policy recommendations to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. In addition to the recommendations on Waters of the United States (WOTUS), NCBA is supportive of the FRRCC’s position on an ecosystem management system, pesticide management and food loss and waste, shared the press release.
The recommendations focus on the need for clear, consistent policy positions from the EPA, which account for the needs of farmers and ranchers on their individual operations.
In November 2021, the Biden administration released a proposal to repeal the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) and proposed new regulations on common agricultural features, such as stock ponds, ditches and ephemeral water features which only flow during periods of rainfall. NBCA encourages the EPA to adopt the FRRCC recommendations, which align with the views of cattle producers and address shortcomings in the proposed rule, the release stated.
America’s farmers and ranchers provide food security for the nation. The agricultural community relies heavily on healthy soil, clean water and fresh air to produce food and fiber. The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment.
Recently, the FRRCC officially presented several recommendations to Administrator Regan for his consideration and adoption.
The FRRCC’s recommendations in regards to WOTUS include: “Ensuring EPA compliance with the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court precedent limiting federal jurisdiction over bodies of water; developing a clear definition of WOTUS easily interpreted by farmers and ranchers; protecting WOTUS exemptions for common agricultural features, including farm ditches, stock ponds, prairie potholes, prior converted cropland and other small, isolated water features; and reconsider the EPA roundtable process to ensure all stakeholders have an opportunity to voice concerns on WOTUS rulemaking,” according to the release.
Starting in August 2021, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineering held public listening sessions where NCBA, state affiliates and numerous cattle producers provided comment in support of NWPR. While the Biden administration develops new WOTUS rules, NCBA continues to be vigilant in the conversation.
“The FRRCC represents a diverse group of stakeholders including academia, industry, non-governmental organizations and state, local and Tribal governments,” said Yager. “NCBA strongly supports the committee’s recommendation to develop a clear and limited WOTUS definition and protect key exemptions for common agriculture features. With the EPA’s convoluted approach to soliciting public comments and stakeholder perspectives on WOTUS, NCBA encourages the EPA to listen to its own advisory committee’s recommendation, and the recommendation is clear: farmers and ranchers need clear rules and regulatory certainty to be successful.”
“FRRCC was called back to join and put together some recommendations specifically related to three topics,” shared Hart. “NCBA is very excited about all of the recommendations, but I think we are especially happy to see the advisory committee make some specific recommendations related to EPA’s definition of WOTUS.”
“The report outlines a few specific WOTUS recommendations and they really align with what NCBA has been saying to the agency for the last few years,” continues Hart. “We want to make sure EPA’s WOTUS definition aligns with supreme court precedent.”
Hart continues by saying, “If you are a farmer or rancher, you can easily interpret the definition of WOTUS. You can go out to a jurisdictional feature, or a potentially jurisdictional feature, on your property and at least make a preliminary determination about whether a feature or activities around a feature will be subject to permit requirements. We want clarity in the law and this is also something the FRRCC highlighted in their report.”
In addition to the WOTUS recommendations, there are some broad recommendations concerning pesticide use and food waste, mentioned Hart.
“Cattle and livestock producers get a lot of negative press related to climate change when in fact food waste is the largest emitter of green gas emissions when we talk about food and ag in the U.S.,” she shared.
Hart appreciated the EPA and FRRCC recognition of food waste being an issue which needs to be addressed collectively.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.