The Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) is appealing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to postpone and rescind the implementation of the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule set to go into effect on August 28. Earlier this year, the EPA released its final WOTUS rule, which is intended to provide clarification on when the Clean Water Act comes into play. Although the EPA claims this final rule will have no impact on common farming practices, those who farm for a living disagree.
“The real challenge is the uncertainty it has put into our operations of what we can and cannot do,” explains ICGA Chairman Roger Zylstra who farms with his son and a business partner in Jasper County. “They tell us that normal farming practices are exempt, yet if you read the rule it looks like a number of things we normally do on our farm may cause problems.”
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (Corps), who are partnering with the EPA in the process, have expressed reservations on the science and legality of the rule. In a letter from General Peabody to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, the General states, “Corps data to EPA has been selectively applied out of context, and mixes terminology and disparate data sets. In the Corps judgement, these documents contain numerous inappropriate assumptions with no connection to the data provided, misapplied data, analytical deficiencies and logical.”
Farmers need clarification in the jurisdiction discrepancies of EPA and the Corps states Zylstra. “On our pasture ground, we depend on a stream to help water our cattle,” he says. “Depending on the interpretation of the rule, we may have to fence that off and not even allow our cows access to the stream. We would then have to pump the water to the cattle from somewhere else causing us additional expenses.”
Multiple organizations performed objective readings of WOTUS and found that every single farmer in the United States has at least one feature on their farm that is now defined as WOTUS. The rule extends its reach to features that have had water on them just a few weeks, or even a few days. It also covers ditches that were created to support more efficient drainage, grass waterways that has been installed to control erosion and protect the soil, and cultivated wetlands that may be dry for most of the growing season and have not been farmed for years. ICGA farmers say they believe this type of regulation is unnecessary because they are already using voluntary measures to ensure water quality.
“The technologies available to farmers have evolved over the years,” states ICGA Board Member Denny Friest who farms with his son and wife in Harden County. “We now have tools that will put the precise levels of nutrients on the field when we need them significantly reducing the amount of nitrates that end up in our waterways.”
Friest says one of his goals in farming is to pass on his farm to future generations and maintaining a good environment and water system is key to the success of being able to pass it down. ICGA will stand up and use our voice in hopes that the EPA will re-work this rule and propose a new one that allows farmers to continue to farm well into the future.