Roundtables continue on the topic of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule. In June of last year, the EPA and ACE announced their intention to rewrite the rule. It is a concern for farmers, ranchers, and agriculture groups around the nation. The government agencies agreed to allow ten regional roundtable discussions with stakeholders. The California Farm Bureau last week hosted the roundtable on water needs in the west. California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson was one of the key speakers.
“The definition of the waters of the US is of paramount importance to our members at the California Farm Bureau. As I mentioned earlier, there are 30,000 up and down across the state. Our members who engage in activities on the land and waters that are regulated under the federal Clean Water Act—and often more—often require jurisdiction determination from the army prior to proceeding,” Johansson said. “In addition to waters that are jurisdictional, a key priority for our members is maintaining the exemptions or exclusions that currently exist in the Clean Water Act, such as exemptions from 404 permits for ongoing, routine, and normal farming practices such as tilling, as well as prior converted croplands which will be an important discussion point today.”
Johannson also highlighted the problems with how long it can take to get permits under the rule.
“Any changes to Clean Water Act regulations governing how determinations of jurisdictions are made and particularly any expansion of federal jurisdictions has a substantial effect on the farmer’s ability to timely obtain permits necessary to continue existing agricultural operations or develop new or expanded agricultural projects,” he said. “Changes can also affect the farmer’s ability to conduct ordinary agricultural activities such as plowing, planting, and building in or near ephemeral drainages ditches or low spots that could trigger a Clean Water Act or similar criminal penalties unless a permit is obtained.”
The final three WOTUS roundtables are scheduled for this week, including one today for the Northeast, one on the 23rd for the Southeast, and another western roundtable on Friday the 24th. All of the sessions are live-streamed and recordings are available after the session.
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.
Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.