The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and other agricultural groups are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling regarding the Clean Water Act.

NPPC is asking the high court to rule that ditches, drainage ways or wetlands with only indirect connections to “navigable waters” not be subject to provisions of the Clean Water Act, which requires a permit to discharge into a navigable water.

NPPC filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a consolidated case involving two Michigan landowners who were denied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the right to develop their property because it includes wetlands.

Neither property owner’s land abuts or drains directly into navigable waterways. Both the Corps of Engineers and the EPA contend that the Clean Water Act prohibits discharges of pollutants, including agricultural wastes, into navigable waters without a permit.

“The Clean Water Act cannot reasonably be interpreted to authorize the regulation of discharges to ditches, drainage ways or wetlands that are only indirectly connected to navigable waters,” says Randy Spronk, chairman of NPPC’s environmental policy committee and an Edgerton, MN, pork producer.

“If the interpretation supported by the Corps of Engineers and EPA is allowed to stand, pork producers could be subject to Clean Water Act penalties if the manure they spread on their land reaches a ditch,” he explains.

In the brief, NPPC argues that navigable waters are properly limited to waters that are, or could be, navigable or that abut and are “inseparably bound up” with such navigable waters.