Farmers Frustrated with President Biden's Updated Water Rule

August 31, 2023 - 

Farmers, ranchers, and landowners are frustrated with the Biden Administration’s changes to the Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS). 

The Administration was forced to update the controversial rule after a U.S. Supreme Court Decision altered how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines a what is a water of the U.S. under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA rewrite of the WOTUS Rule failed to bring fairness to farmers and ranchers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation and its state affiliates.

WATCH: Wyoming Farm Bureau President Todd Fornstrom discuss the Biden Administration’s changes to the Waters of the U.S. Rule.

AFBF Senior Government Affairs Director Courtney Briggs says Farm Bureau is disappointed in the direction taken by the EPA.

“This is a real missed opportunity to write a WOTUS rule that is fair to the regulated community and that is truly durable,” Brigss said. “And, the agencies have addressed the headline grabbing aspects of the Supreme Court decision, like getting rid of the problematic significant nexus test, but they are trying to exploit aspects of the rule in order to expand their jurisdictional reach.”

Wyoming Farm Bureau President Todd Fornstrom said the way the EPA revised the WOTUS rule left out stakeholder input.

“They obviously are in a hurry to get some federal control over waters that are already regulated by local government, whether it be county or state,” said Fornstrom. “They just want to get their hands on control. I don't see it any other way. They did this rule today without any further comment which is a little bit of a backdoor. We've said all along the water that's not regulated by the EPA is already regulated by the state.”

The EPA removed the term "significant nexus" from the waters of the U.S.(WOTUS)rule in a final revision announced by the agency Tuesday after the Supreme Court in May declared unconstitutional the jurisdictional test that has been the subject of intense opposition and litigation for nearly a decade.

In addition, the revision clarifies wetlands are not defined as adjacent or jurisdictional in the Clean Water Act solely because they are "bordering, contiguous or neighboring" or separated from other waters by manmade barriers.

During the Farm Progress show in Decatur, IL, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed farmers’ concerns over the updated rule.

"Let's be fair to the EPA on the WOTUS Rule,” said Sec. Vilsack.  “Essentially it made an effort, the court gave them instructions, and they recently came out and complied with the court’s instructions. So, it's now providing farmers with the predictability and stability and responded to some of the concerns that were most a top of mind by farmers and the Farm Bureau, for example. That's been handled by the court.”

Farm Bureau differs from the opinion of President Biden's Secretary of Agriculture. Todd Fornstrom pointed out that while the EPA did remove the Significant Nexus Test from the Rule, the Biden Administration could have done more.

“What they have done with the rule, from what we can tell so far, is they've addressed some of the things like the Nexus of all the waters that are connected to navigable waters,” said Fornstrom. “They've thrown that out of their regulations and that's really all they've changed. They really haven't changed the in the rest of their rule that was thrown out altogether.”

The American Farm Bureau said the new rule fails to bring clarity and certainty for farmers, ranchers and landowners.

“So, while we've made a lot of progress with the Sackett decision, the agencies are still trying to be vague and amorphous with their policies, which equates to continued confusion and lack of certainty for landowners,” said Courtney Briggs. “So, we have long called for a durable rule, but this rulemaking completely misses the mark.”

For more on the changes made to WOTUS CLICK HERE. 

Source: Western Ag Network, DTN