The troubled 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule introduced by the Obama administration in 2015 to define which waters are regulated by the Clean Water Act was officially replaced today by the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Farmers, ranchers and other industry groups expressed their gratitude on Thursday.
“President Trump is restoring the rule of law and empowering Americans by removing undue burdens and strangling regulations from the backs of our productive farmers, ranchers, and rural land-owners. The days are gone when the Federal Government can claim a small farm pond on private land as navigable waters,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
He thanked President Trump and Administrator Wheeler for “having the backs of our farmers, ranchers, and producers and for continuing to roll back Federal overreach.”
“Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, which are essential to producing healthy food and fiber and ensuring future generations can do the same. That’s why we support the new clean water rule. It provides clarity and certainty, allowing farmers to understand water regulations without having to hire teams of consultants and lawyers,” American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duval said in a statement. “We appreciate the commitment of the agencies involved and this administration to crafting a new regulation that achieves important regulatory oversight while allowing farmers to farm. Clean water, clear rules.”
Today’s announcement is welcome news to America’s wheat producers who’ve dealt with years of regulatory uncertainty, according to North American Wheat Growers President and Lavon, TX, farmer Ben Scholz.
“Farmers are dependent on protecting our natural resources for safe and reliable water to grow crops and for the communities that farmers are a part of,” he said in a statement. “To do so, we need regulatory certainty and clarity as well as a commonsense framework for how the rules will work. Wheat growers are pleased the Trump Administration has made this announcement and are looking forward to diving into the details.”
Similarly, cattle ranchers were pleased with the new rule.
“This is the last regulatory step in a long-fought battle to repeal the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and replace it with common-sense regulation. The 2015 WOTUS rule was an illegal effort to assert control over private property - and we fought to have it repealed - but it also needs to be replaced, and today’s action is the last step in that process,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Jennifer Houston in a press release.
The previous WOTUS rule issued by the Obama administration in August 2015 gave EPA broad jurisdiction over U.S. waters to include other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams. Most importantly, it also covered lands adjacent to waters such as farm fields, added the National Pork Producer Council in a press release.
"We're pleased EPA has finalized a common-sense rule, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, that works with—not against—farmers to protect our nation's waterways," said NPPC President David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C. "The previous WOTUS rule was a dramatic government overreach and an unprecedented expansion of federal authority over private lands. Today's action balances the role of federal, state and local authorities, protects property rights and provides clarity for farmers like me, while providing regulatory certainty to our farmers and businesses."
Ag retailers are also pleased with the deal.
“The new Navigable Waters Protection Rule provides much-needed clarity for agricultural retailers and their farmer customers. We are pleased the new rule is realistic, practical, consistent with the Clean Water Act and based on science. The rule replaces was not realistic or practical, and it overstepped the boundaries of its authorizing statute,” Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) President and CEO Daren Coppock said in a press release. “Under this rule, our members and their farmer customers will be able to operate with much more certainty. And the waters of the United States will continue to be protected as required by Congress, despite the doomsday predictions of some opponents.”
Rural lawmakers also praised the new rule.
“President Trump deserves credit for following through on his promise to repeal this Obama-era rule that would have defined 97 percent of Iowa as a waterway,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said in a statement. “Giving the federal government the power to regulate nearly all of Iowa would have been an economic catastrophe. My neighbors who farm in Butler County shouldn’t have to get permission from bureaucrats in Washington to move soil on their own land. This was just another example of out-of-touch and ill-conceived government overreach. This new rule will help keep our water and land clean without destroying Iowa’s small businesses and family farming operations.”
Similarly, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said the deal is good for her constituents.
“For years, Iowans have told me what an egregious overreach Obama’s WOTUS rule was, giving the federal government authority to regulate 97 percent of the land in Iowa. That’s absurd, and it’s why I’ve worked hard to get rid of it,” Ernst said. “After working relentlessly alongside the Trump Administration, I’m proud that we’ve successfully scrapped this Obama-era rule and are now providing the predictability and certainty our hardworking farmers, manufacturers, and landowners in Iowa deserve. Under President Trump’s leadership, we’ve fought to get the government off the backs of farmers and business owners and have had major wins on trade – like the USMCA, the phase one China deal, and the Japan agreement – all of which are spurring a sense of optimism and economic growth across rural America.”