House Ag Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Proposed Clean Water Act Rule
During a House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing Thursday on the applicability of the Clean Water Act on ag practices - Ag Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie maintained conservation practices under the interpretative rule are still voluntary. However - Subcommittee Chair Glenn Thompson said the standards have gone from voluntary to compulsory. Thompson says if farmers and ranchers don't want to face the consequences - fees and interruptions - of the Clean Water Act - it is compulsory. House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson says his experience with his constituents is that the Army Corps of Engineers has gone off the reservation. One the one hand - Bonnie says it's clear the Waters of the U.S. issue has been a deep concern for agriculture - but he says the number of exemptions has been increased through a voluntary basis - so the hope is it will be accepted as the opportunity it is.
American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs Don Parrish told lawmakers the EPA isn't content with regulating just water - they want to control land use - too. Parrish says the agency's overreach ignores the will of Congress and courts - and compounds farmers' problems by calling into question dozens of exemptions for basic farming techniques. Pennsylvania cattle producer Andy Fabin told the subcommittee as a farmer - his willingness to implement voluntary conservation practices has been greatly diminished - despite his desire to improve and protect the waters on his farm. If the interpretive rule remains in place - Fabin says farmers and ranchers across the U.S. will slow their adoption of conservation practices. While EPA, the Corps and NRCS would have him believe the activities that take place on his farm are exempted - Fabin says it is a negligent mischaracterization because not all ag activities are exempted under the Clean Water Act. In fact - he says the proposed rule would expand the number of farming activities that need permits.
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