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Waters of the U.S. bites the dust

Progressive Cattle Editor Carrie Veselka Published on 16 September 2019

Farmers and ranchers are breathing a sigh of relief after the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers announced Sept. 12 that they are repealing the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. rule that expanded the EPA and Corps' regulatory powers beyond the limits approved by Congress and the Supreme Court.

The agencies next step will be reverting back to the regulations that existed before the 2015 ruling.

U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue called repealing Waters of the U.S. a “major win” for American agriculture. “The extreme overreach from the past administration had government taking the productivity of the land people had worked for years,” he said in a news release. “Farmers and ranchers are exceptional stewards of the land, taking great care to preserve it for generations to come.”

Members of Congress, governors, state officials and industry stakeholders applauded this policy change via public statements:

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall

“Farmers and ranchers share the goal of ensuring clean water, but the 2015 Waters of the United States rule was unreasonable and unworkable. It made conservation more difficult and created huge liabilities for farmers. 

“No regulation is perfect, and no rule can accommodate every concern, but the 2015 rule was especially egregious. We are relieved to put it behind us. We are now working to ensure a fair and reasonable substitute that protects our water and our ability to work and care for the land. Farm Bureau’s multiyear effort to raise awareness of overreaching provisions was powered by thousands of our members who joined with an array of allies to achieve this victory for clear rules to ensure clean water.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston

“The 2015 WOTUS rule was an illegal effort by the federal government to assert control over both land and water, significantly impacting our ability to implement vital conservation practices.

“After years spent fighting the 2015 WOTUS rule in the halls of Congress, in the courts and at the EPA, cattle producers will sleep a little easier tonight knowing that the nightmare is over,” she said. “Thanks to President Trump and Administrator Wheeler for their commitment to farmers and ranchers and restoring the rule of law. NCBA looks forward to the finalization of a practical Waters of the United States definition that will protect our water resource while allowing cattle producers to do their jobs effectively.”

United States Cattlemen's Association President Kenny Graner

"USCA applauds the Trump Administration for rectifying this gross regulatory overreach and rolling back the 2015 WOTUS Rule. America's farming and ranching families produce the safest, most bountiful food supply in the world, and we owe it to our careful stewardship of the land. 

"The 2015 WOTUS Rule would have reassigned jurisdiction of our nation's ditches, puddles, and intermittent streams to the federal government, which would have effectively stymied our ability to produce food, fiber, and fuel. We look forward to working with the Administration to propose a commonsense and ecologically sound WOTUS definition." 

Prior to the repeal, 27 states were protected from Waters of the U.S. A federal court in North Dakota issued a preliminary injunction against implementation of the rule, protecting 13 states in August 2015. A Georgia federal court did the same for 11 more states in June 2018, and a Texas court followed suit in Sept. 2018, protecting three more states. Now a year later, the entire nation will see a repeal of the Waters of the U.S. ruling and a return to more reasonable water regulations. end mark

Carrie Veselka
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