A coalition of agricultural groups has formed in Nebraska to protest a proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act.
The “Common Sense Nebraska” coalition claims the Environmental Protection Agency wants to extend its reach onto family farms.
Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson claims the EPA is seeking to expand the Clean Water Act to regulate farm ponds, creeks, and ditches.
“This is unneeded rule-making. It’s rule making that Congress has said is not necessary, it’s well beyond the intent of the law. The courts have said that the EPA doesn’t have jurisdiction to do this and yet they’re trying to do it anyway,” Nelson tells Brownfield Ag News. “So, obviously the long-term goal here would be to have the EPA say this is not where they’re going and to have them back off completely from this.”
Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA has authority to regulate “navigable waters” such as rivers and lakes. The coalition contends the EPA wants to extend its reach to water used for livestock or irrigation, which it claims would be very costly to farmers and ranchers.
Nebraska Cattlemen Vice President Barb Cooksley of Anselmo worries about costly new regulations.
“Standard practices that we’ve been using at our ranch, say fencing, maybe through low areas if we’re needing to mow hay in a sub-irrigated meadow, if it has standing water, will that have to have a permit now?” Cooksley asks.
The coalition claims such an expansion would be very costly to farms and ranches. It also claims Congress specifically exempted farms from the regulations.
Nebraska Corn Growers President Joel Grams doesn’t buy assurances by the EPA that most agricultural practices will be exempt from the new proposed rules.
“I think there’s been a little bit left to interpretation on all that stuff,” Grams says. “So, nobody really has, cut and dried, what it takes to be compliant with all that stuff. Until we get that in black and white, I am a little skeptical.”
“Common Sense Nebraska” members include Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Soybean Association, and the Nebraska State Dairy Association.
Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, contributed to this article.