EPA - Coming to a farm near you

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

It’s come to this. Unless finally stopped by the courts, the Obama Administration and its Environmental Protection Agency will have a bigger say in how you operate your farm or ranch. A very significant say.

If you’ve been following the controversy surrounding EPA’s Waters of the United States, you’ve seen why.

First, in 2009 EPA tried to extend its regulatory control of the river systems in the United States. The agency tried to exert control over areas that rarely contained water except when rain ran off fields. EPA specifically tried to redefine what “navigable” meant in terms of federal control of “navigable” waters.

When that failed, EPA turned to Congress to remove the term “navigable.” The resulting Democrat-sponsored legislation, despite the fact that Democrats held the White House, the Senate and the House, was so unpopular that the bill never reached the Senate floor nor was it taken up in the House.

EPA then tried a new tack. The agency argued that all water had a connection to navigable waters. So in consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and national environmental groups, EPA proposed expanding its authority under the Clean Water Act.

The Corps, just before the final report was published, distanced itself from the EPA’s power grab. One internal Corps memo stated: “Corps data provided to EPA has been selectively applied out of context and mixes terminology and disparate data sets…the document contain numerous inappropriate assumptions with no connection to the data provided, misapplied data, analytical deficiencies, and logical inconsistencies. As a result, the Corps review could not find a justifiable basis in the analysis for many of the document’s conclusions.”

The memo went on to note: “To the extent that the term ‘agencies’ includes the Corps of Engineers, any such reference should be removed. Finally, the Corps of Engineers’ logo should be removed from these two documents.”

Within days, the Corps walked back the comments. Sure sounds to me like marching orders were given.

At one point, EPA held a series of “listening” sessions. I don’t think they heard a thing agriculture had to say. Worse, EPA undertook a propaganda effort using social media in concert with environmental groups to lobby Congress into supporting EPA. Long-standing federal law prohibits lobbying or propaganda efforts by federal agencies.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, concluded that EPA’s social media activities were in “violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition.” It also concluded EPA participated in “grassroots lobbying, in violation of the grassroots lobbying prohibition.” Don’t hold your breath until anyone is held accountable.

Thirty-two states filed 22 lawsuits challenging EPA’s rule and a federal judge granted an injunction. EPA argued that it has whatever authority it needs to carry out the intent of the Clean Water Act as long as Congress has not specifically prohibited it legislatively.

From there the fight has moved to the courts for resolution. EPA’s actions have devolved to such an extent that sympathetic politicians have been writing, urging them to “do the right thing.” If this weren’t so serious, it would be a bad comedy.

Despite the opposition of 32 states and the U.S. Congress, the president has vetoed legislation to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency.

Farm Bureau has fought this rule from inception. According to its research, “Because the WOTUS rule is so broad and complex, however, it will be almost impossible for farmers and ranchers to determine with confidence that any potential ‘water’ feature is not WOTUS.”

Why is it important to know whether your land is affected?] Again, from Farm Bureau, because any application from a “mechanical applicator of any ‘pollutant’ in any amount” (whether plow or planter) will require a permit from a state agency or EPA to avoid penalty.

When 99.7 percent of the land mass in the state of Missouri (and other states in similar amounts) is covered by this new federal rule, you can be certain all of your operation requires federal oversight.

I clearly remember former MFA CEO Bud Frew saying in the early 1990s if we don’t stop this onslaught of regulation, implement companies are going to have to design bigger cabs just so farmers and ranchers can seat a lawyer, a bureaucrat and a judge during normal field operations.

Agriculture is at that point.


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