According to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other agricultural policy organizations, states could face as many as 100,000 additional regulated stream miles as a result of the "Waters of the United States" rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite assurances from EPA to the contrary, NCBA and others say the proposal is a vast expansion of EPA's regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.
"In Missouri alone, nearly 80,000 additional stream miles will fall under the authority of EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," said NCBA environmental counsel Ashley McDonald at an event in the Show Me State late last month. "Logic and common sense tells us tha tthe surrounding land will also be regulated more than ever before."
McDonald said that because the proposal goes so far as to include ditches in the definition of a "tributary" under the Act, any acitivity near a ditch will now require a federal permit, meaning that farmers and ranchers will routinely need to acquire permits for acitivites done on their land.
"The rule adds more layers of government bueaucracy and red tape, and amounts to nothing more than a pervasive invasion of private property rights," she said.
Adding fuel to the fire, a Congressional comittee last week released a series of maps purporting to show the extent of EPA's authority under the proposed rule. As reported by Feedstuffs editor Jacqui Fatka, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released maps of waters and wetlands the EPA has to-date refrained from making public. After multiple requests, the Agency finally handed over the maps to the committee in preparation for a hearing on the proposal.
“Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA’s desire to minimize the importance of these maps,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, in a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “But EPA’s posturing cannot explain away the alarming content of these documents. While you claim that EPA has not yet used these maps to regulate Americans, you provided no explanation for why the Agency used taxpayer resources to have these materials created.”
McDonald called the maps a "smoking gun," corroborating what agricultural groups have said for months: that the rule is an extremely expansive proposal with serious ramifications for agriculture. She said that under the rule, farmers and ranchers will find themselves "at the mercy of the regulatory whims of the federal government."
IN FOCUS: Listen to NCBA environmental counsel Ashley McDonald discuss the problems with the EPA-proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule via the Feedstuffs In Focus podcast. The Feedstuffs In Focus podcast is sponsored by Kemin Industries.