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Farmers, Ranchers Offer Senators Objections To Waters Of The U.S. Rule

Farmers and ranchers from the Midwest and Plains states were among those who testified before the U.S. Senate agriculture committee Tuesday. Many objected to a proposed change to the rules on how the federal government oversees waterways.

Nearly a year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a change to the Clean Water Actthat it says would clarify its authority over certain wetlands and streams. But Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who serves on the agriculture committee, says the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule has met strong opposition in farm country.

“I’ve heard a great deal of concern from farmers, businessmen, communities across Iowa regarding this rule,” Grassley said. “It’s apparent that WOTUS hasn’t clarified much at all. The only thing that citizens seem to be sure of is that it will grant the EPA much greater authority.”

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy made a recent trip to the region and attempted to quell farmers’ concerns. Some indicated they thought the new rule would subject tiny ditches and ponds to miles of red tape.

“Farmers and ranchers still will not need an Army Corps permit to go about their business,” McCarthy said. “It is that simple and we will keep it that simple.”

The agency withdrew controversial parts of the new regulations late last year and insists it is not over-reaching but rather guaranteeing its ability to monitor water quality. 

EPA intends to release the final rule this spring. 

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.
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