Ag Groups Testify on WOTUS

Cindy ZimmermanAFBF, Audio, Cotton, Government

Representatives of agricultural organizations testified on how the proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule would impact them during a hearing held Tuesday by the House Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry.

hearing2American Farm Bureau Federation General Counsel Ellen Steen told the panel that “unless dramatically altered,” the rule will create enormous uncertainty and vulnerability for farmers and ranchers nationwide.

“It is impossible to know how many farmers, ranchers and forest landowners will be visited by [EPA] enforcement staff or will be sued by citizen plaintiffs’ lawyers—and it is impossible to know when those inspections and lawsuits will happen,” Steen said. “But what is certain is that a vast number of common, responsible farming, ranching and forestry practices that occur today without the need for a federal permit would be highly vulnerable to Clean Water Act enforcement under this rule.”

hearing1National Cotton Council (NCC) Chairman Sledge Taylor of Mississippi said the rule “creates confusion and risk by providing the EPA and the Corps of Engineers with almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects, including common farm ditches, non-permanent drainages and agricultural ponds in and near farms across the nation.”

Taylor, who also grows corn, soybeans, sorghum and peanuts, stressed that if the agencies make significant changes to the rule it is important that the revised rule be released again.

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Next week, the full Senate Agriculture Committee on Agriculture will hold a hearing on WOTUS, 10:00 am, Tuesday, March 24.