In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, the American Soybean Association urged the agency to accept feedback and comments from industry as it prepares a revised Waters of the United States rule as part of the Clean Water Act.
Following introduction of the proposed rule in April 2014, ASA expressed strong concerns about its jurisdiction, application and potential impacts on American farms, and asked that the rule be withdrawn and a new rule that included input from farmers be developed. In response to these concerns, EPA Administrator McCarthy has given assurances that problems in the original rule will be fixed when a final rule is issued.
“While we appreciate (Administrator McCarthy’s) strong statements that these problems have been fixed, we will not have an opportunity to offer comments if the rule is published as a final rule,” wrote ASA President and Brownfield, Texas, farmer Wade Cowan in the letter. “We anticipate, given (EPA’s) statements, that the revised rule will be substantially different from the first. Because the rule has the potential to have such large economic consequences for farmers and the entire economy, ASA strongly urges … a second period to provide comments on this rule. This could be accomplished by issuing either a revised proposed rule or an interim final rule. We respectfully ask that these revisions be offered for public comment, in the interest of finalizing a rule that provides clarity to farmers and truly maintains all exemptions for normal agricultural practices.”
The original rule prompted a range of lawmakers in both parties to criticize the process and the potential for detrimental impacts not only on the farm, but across rural communities, and that sentiment remains. Cowan noted many of ASA’s concerns with the original rule in the letter, saying that the rule as originally proposed would create new uncertainty and legal jeopardy for soybean farmers across the country. ASA’s concerns range from internal contradictions and inconsistencies in the rule to the lack of important definitions to confusion over what land and water could be subject to the rule’s jurisdiction.