Many of you have seen my posts, pictures and updates about EPA’s proposed rule to change what they define as Waters of the United States or commonly referred to as WOTUS. The EPA is trying to write it off as this will help with clean water, when really all it does is gives them more overreaching authority to regulate your dry land, and what you can do or can’t do as a land owner!
Here’s the thing, the EPA is trying to redefine what they call navigable waters of the U.S., meaning you can float a boat on them- think lakes, rivers, some streams and ponds, by leaving the term “tributary” open to definition. A definition that includes dry land. Land that might hold water for a few days after a rain, a ditch that might hold water a few days out of the year, or a dry crick bed that only fills up for a week during the spring in your back yard. This definition even includes land that hasn’t had a single puddle in it, ever, but because of soil samples (some taken many, many years ago) having markers for water potential, they are now listed as a potential wetland area.
If EPA get’s their way, this would happen to a field that my family has farmed for over 100 years. They have put a spot right in the middle of it, saying that is has potential to be a wetland area even though it has never been wet the entire time we’ve farmed it. If their rule goes through, we would have to go through a permitting process to now farm this land. A permit from the EPA right now, can take anywhere from 2-6 months to receive, and they can still deny that permit if they want to.
This rule won’t just affect farmers. It affects every single land owner out there. Want to dig up and plant a garden in your backyard that has that dry crick-bed majority of the summer 25 feet from it? Think again. Permit time. How about mowing that ditch in your front yard that fills up with water for three days after a heavy rain? No way. That is now a WOTUS and you will need a permit to mow that lawn! These scenarios are all possible thanks to EPA’s new proposed rule and their interpretive rule. You can view how this rule has placed water in your backyard by visiting this interactive map. Just enter in your address and select the layers you want to see. This map is still only estimated to be a fraction of what the EPA wants to regulate.
The interpretive rule is also a conundrum with what the EPA was thinking. They included 56 conservation acts that farmer’s currently and voluntarily practice and said that these conservation acts would not be subject to the rule or permitting process. However, the rule is put forth that in order to get a permit, you may have to have one or more of these conservation practices in place-not so voluntary now, is it? But want to know something, there is a list of over 200 (yeap, 200!) conservation practices that farmers currently and voluntarily do. Farmers work with their local NRCS offices and soil and water conservation districts to implement many of these practices because they know it is the right thing to do, it benefits their land, wildlife and water and it just plain and simply makes sense! Farmers have established relationships with these offices because they are the ones who know the area, know the land, and can deal with the unique situations that exist county to county, state to state, and even in the same field! Currently, those practices are voluntary. However, the EPA wants to make the NRCS enforce some of these as mandatory. Why does the EPA want to ruin these relationships and jeopardize what farmers are already doing?
These same exemptions or practices that won’t require a permit however only apply to farms that have been in operation since the 1970’s. That means many new, beginning farmers, the start-up CSA’s, and the local vegetable producers that are new to the scene are subject to the rule no matter what. They can’t be exempt, no matter what they do.
I know, the EPA has said that we are overreacting. That they won’t actually enforce their rule. They are trying to just make the definition more clear. But did you know that if the EPA doesn’t enforce the rule, other environmental groups such as HSUS, The Sierra Club and EarthJustice can, and knowing them, they will, sue the EPA for not enforcing it? Just because this administration of EPA says they won’t enforce it, doesn’t mean the next administration won’t either.
Last week, on my trip to Washington, D.C. I was able to be part of a group that dropped off 1400 postcards from Minnesota farmers, community members, land owners and concerned citizens telling the EPA to #ditchtherule already! Many of our House members from Minnesota voted on #Hr5078 and we are so thankful for those that did! Now, it is time for not only the Senate to take action stopping the EPA, but also you! Remember, Congress makes the laws, not agencies with an agenda!
How can you help? There is still time to comment on their proposed rule. Let them know how it will affect you! Visit Ditch The Rule and click on take action! Get on social media and Tweet, Instagram and post on Facebook using the hashtags #ditchtherule and #readthefineprint with your updates. Let the EPA know this is a complete overreach of their authority and as a citizen and landowner, you are not okay with it!
In farming, the cows have to get milked today, and the crops need to get picked when they are ready to harvest. We can’t wait 6 months for a permit from the EPA to say “yes” or “no” on something we’ve been doing for years. I don’t think any landowner can wait 6 months for a permit to mow their lawn before they’d get a fine from the city or county. Time to take action.