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 Act that 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.