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Leave Us Alone!

By Staff | Sep 1, 2015

Just in case you missed it, Friday was a momentous day for farmers and rural America.

The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rules, governing the Clean Water Act, were set to go into effect, courtesy of our friends at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C., with a little help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

But, just like in those prison movies, right before the warden gets ready to throw the switch for the electric chair, a reprieve comes in, stopping things.

Such was the case Thursday night – Chief Judge Ralph Erickson of the District Court of North Dakota issued an order to stop the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule in its tracks. Judge Erickson said what farmers have been saying for months – the EPA was arbitrary and capricious in its rulemaking. Judge Erickson saw no connection between key provisions of the rule and the EPA’s reasoning presented to support it. Because of that fact, the court ordered implementation of the WOTUS rules be stopped while litigation continues to a conclusion.

In a nutshell, the Waters of the United States rules will affect every bit of water – potholes, sloughs, marshes, rivers, lakes, creeks, everything – under the direct control of the EPA. Simply translated, if a farmer wants to install tile to drain a marshy pothole in a field, he would have to get permission from the EPA to do work on his own land. Not the EPA’s land – the farmer’s own land.

Drainage projects all over the country are in limbo. Ask any drainage engineer – WOTUS is a dirty word. Dealing with the federal bureaucracy would make anyone talk to themselves in frustration.

Support for the injunction against the EPA?was quick. The Iowa Farm Bureau voiced its support. “We applaud the court’s decision. The so-called Clean Water Rule is yet another example of EPA’s reckless and unlawful behavior in the face of science, economics and the law. Whether you’re a farmer, a rancher, a homebuilder or landowner of any stripe, the evidence is clear: This rule simply has to be stopped. This unlawful rule will continue to create uncertainty and legal risk for commonplace land uses like farming and ranching. It’s clear that now is the time for Congress to act and pass S. 1140 to send EPA back to the drawing board. We won’t stop until this rule is finished.”

The National Corn Growers also publicly endorsed the injunction. “We support the judge’s decision in North Dakota, which should give the courts and the public more time to figure out how to proceed with WOTUS. The Army Corps of Engineers has stated this rule is not based on science or law and is unlikely to withstand a legal challenge. When even the federal agencies responsible for this rule can’t agree on its constitutionality, it’s time for EPA to withdraw the rule and start this process over. The WOTUS rule will have serious consequences for every farmer and rancher in America. It must not be allowed to stand. From the beginning, we have asked for a rule that provides farmers with clarity and certainty about their responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. Instead, what we got was less clarity and less certainty along with more paperwork, more permits, and more hassle.

“This court decision reinforces the need to permanently repeal the WOTUS rule. We urge the Senate to pass S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, as soon as possible. This law will force EPA to withdraw WOTUS and work with farmers and other stakeholders to rewrite the rule. Clean water is important to all of us. NCGA is committed to working with the EPA, the Corps, and other stakeholders to protect America’s water resources.”

Growing up on a farm, living in this county and sitting through countless drainage hearings, the prospects of what WOTUS could do to the average farmer are frightening, at best. Instead of trying to put the American farmer out of business, our government should be supporting the efforts of the farmer to do his or her job – feeding a hungry world.

Either help us, or just leave us alone, Washington!