The Waters of the United States rule has been a contentious topic of discussion in agricultural circles recently. This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the comment period for the proposed rule will be extended to October 20 instead of ending July 21, with a deadline of July 7 to comment on the accompanying interpretive rule governing agricultural exemptions to the rule. 

A number of agricultural groups had requested the extension of the comment period. Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said, “The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased the EPA has extended the time available to comment on new and highly burdensome clean water rules. This is a victory for farming families and a clear signal that America’s farmers know how to stand up and be counted.”

Several stories outlined the response to the proposed rule this week.

1. EPA Approves Extension of Comment Period for Waters Rule

Farm Futures magazine explains that the proposed rule would dictate what falls under the definition of waters of the U.S., therefore designating EPA's and Army Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction areas for enforcement of regulations outlined in the Clean Water Act.

Farm and livestock groups suggest the rules could expand EPA's ability to regulate ditches and other areas on private land, including intermittent and ephemeral streams. If regulated, the groups say farmers could be subject to permits and other requirements before completing typical farming and ranching tasks.

In a letter sent last week requesting additional comment time on the proposal, more than 70 groups said if the rule were to be approved as written, application of manure on lands near such streams, for example, could be considered a discharge and require a CWA permit.”

Read more from Farm Futures here.

2. EPA’s Water Rule Takes Bipartisan Beating

The Hill reported on a bruising hearing that took place on June 11 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. During the hearing, Deputy EPA Administrator Robert Perciasepe maintained the agency's draft Waters of the United States rule is intended to clarify existing regulations governing which bodies of water fall under federal jurisdiction and permitting requirements. However, many of those testifying before the committee did not agree.

The Hill reports, “Perciasepe repeatedly denied assertions that the government was broadening its power to the detriment of businesses. “Our view is that we’re not expanding to jurisdictions, so I don’t see how it would add to the burden,” he said.

However, numerous witnesses from local government agencies and industry groups called those claims misleading. They argued that the rule is ambiguously written, providing the EPA with substantial latitude and only adding to existing confusion.

“The bottom line is that the expansion of the waters regulated under the Clean Water Act has enormous implications for small business entities that the agencies have not considered, much less explained,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.”

Read more at The Hill website.

3.  5 Reasons Ditch the Rule is Cool

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFB) has created a website to help battle the Waters of the U.S. rule. The site, called ditchtherule.fb.org is an interactive site that provides social media links and graphics to help in the campaign. A news release from AFB explains some of the benefits of the site and reasons for its creation.

Interactivity, baby. Reach members of Congress with your views, tweet to your followers and send comments to federal agencies with a few mouse clicks.

A wonky hashtag. In today’s celebrity-obsessed society, social media hashtags about public policy issues will never have the panache of #KatyPerry, #royalbaby or #letitgo. But the hashtag of the campaign – #DitchTheRule – is cool, in a wonky kind of way.”

Read more at the AFB website here.