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U.S. Ag Groups React Negatively to WOTUS Changes

U.S. ag groups and elected officials all expressed disappointment with the revised Waters of the U.S. rule issued this week by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The agency failed to open the process to public comment, which would have been extremely valuable,” says National Corn Growers Association President Tom Haag. American Soybean Association President Daryl Cates says, “These revisions are window dressing and leave in place much of the rule’s confusing and harmful foundations.”

Corey Rosenbusch, president of The Fertilizer Institute, says they’re disappointed in the agency’s disregard for both the procedural need to invite public input for consideration and for May’s Supreme Court ruling. House Ag Committee Chair Glenn Thompson says EPA’s “sleight-of-hand” in circumventing the rulemaking process leaves the door open to agency abuse and uncertainty for U.S. agriculture. Darren Coppock, president and CEO of the Ag Retailers Association, says this is a missed opportunity by the EPA.

An American Farm Bureau official says the Environmental Protection Agency left itself a big opening in its final WOTUS rule to regulate wetlands. American Farm Bureau’s Senior Director of Governmental Affairs Courtney Briggs said, “In our experience, when things are left vague, they are exploited, and it gives the agencies the latitude and the freedom to assert jurisdiction however they please.”

The final rule ends the ‘significant nexus test’ the high court overturned but leaves in place a vague part of a 2006 court wetlands definition lacking any wetness metrics for land features like ditches. Briggs says, “There are no days, there are no months, there are no weeks, there’s no time. So, I was on a call with the EPA, and point-blank asked them are ephemerals still able to be regulated. And their answer was not ‘no.’”

Upending the point of two Supreme Court cases and decades of litigation by half the states and farm groups to bring an end to wetlands jurisdiction uncertainty.

Briggs added, “The only way to end this ‘ping-ponging’ back and forth is for Congressional action to take place.”

But whether such action like the ‘Define WOTUS Act’ in the Senate will be successful is uncertain.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan says he’s disappointed with the Supreme Court’s May ruling. An EPA press release says the new rule changes only the parts of the previous rule that were invalid under the court’s decision.

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