Indiana’s corn and soybean organizations are speaking out after release of the final Clean Water Act rule, also known as Waters of the U.S. they are disappointed that farmers were not allowed comment on the EPA revision, but EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says the final rule preserves current exemptions for agriculture and doesn’t cover things like tile drainage systems, regular farm activities or moving livestock.
“And we’re doing that without any new permitting requirements and maintaining all previous exemptions and exclusions,” she said. “This rule is about clarification and in fact we’re adding exclusions for features like artificial lakes and ponds, and water filled depressions from construction. This rule will make it easier to identify protected waters and will make those protections consistent with the law as well as the latest peer-reviewed science. This rule is based on science.”
Josh Kirkpatrick, a farmer from Fountain County and chairman of the Indiana Soybean Alliance policy committee said they’ll be taking a close look at the text and spirit of the new rule and “will work diligently to make sure the rule does not negatively impact everyday soybean farming operations. The EPA has promised as such, but we believe allowing farmers to comment on the rule would allow the public to see the challenges farmers face as a result of it.”
Indiana Corn Growers Association President Herb Ringel, a farmer from Wabash, says his group will determine whether the text and spirit of the final document match up to the broad promises the EPA made in the release of the rule, but McCarthy says the rule doesn’t add any new requirements for agriculture.
“It retains all the decades-long exclusions for farming, ranching and forestry. It does not interfere with private property rights or address land use. It does not regulate any ditches unless they function as tributaries. It does not apply to ground water or shallow sub-surface water, cover tile drains, or change policy on irrigation or water transfers. These are all important points that we have made crystal clear in this final rule.”
The administrator added, “The rule will not get in the way of agriculture, in fact it specifically recognizes the crucial role farmers play.”
McCarthy says the new rule would only expand the reach of the Clean Water Act by about three-percent.
In his ICGA statement, Ringel added, “Our farmers fully support legislation passed by the House earlier this month, and a similar bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by Senator Joe Donnelly, which would force the EPA to withdraw and re-craft the rule. We believe the process has been flawed from the start, and the EPA and Army Corps can get this right by starting over and engaging farmers from the beginning.”