NCC: “Waters of the U.S.” Proposed Rule Overly Burdensome
NCC Chairman Sledge Taylor, in March 17 testimony before a House panel, said that a rule proposed by the EPA and Corps of Engineers to define “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act would require costly federal permits for many commonplace and essential farming practices.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Cotton Council (NCC) Chairman Sledge Taylor testified here today that a rule proposed by the EPA and Corps of Engineers to define "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act would require costly federal permits for many commonplace and essential farming practices.
Emphasizing that this rule will have a significant impact on rural America and production agriculture, Taylor stated, "This will result in farmers like myself being forced to endure even more costly regulations and place many of us at risk for fines from the Agencies or facing a citizen suit for normal farming practices."
As one of nine witnesses, the testimony from the Como, Miss., multi-crop producer was during a public hearing, conducted by the House Agriculture Committee's Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, to review that proposed rule and its impact on rural America.
Taylor told the panel any revised rule needs to be released again for public comment. That's because as currently presented, it creates confusion and risk by providing the EPA and the Corps of Engineers with almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects, including common farm ditches, non-permanent drainages and agricultural ponds in and near farms across the nation.
The proposed rule defines terms like "tributary" and "adjacent" in ways that Taylor said make it impossible for a farmer to know whether the specific ditches or low areas at their farm will be deemed "waters of the U.S."
"These definitions are broad enough to give regulators and citizen plaintiffs plenty of room to assert that such areas are subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction," he said. "The tens of thousands of dollars of additional costs for federal permitting of ordinary farming activities is beyond the means of most farmers and ranchers—the vast majority of whom are family-owned small businesses."
Taylor said the Agencies' promise to make significant changes to the rule is a positive step, but given the amount of public interest in this rule, the Agencies are strongly encouraged to release the revised rule again for public comment.
"The Clean Water Act involves an extremely complex set of rules and regulations, and it is important for rural America to have ample input into any final rule," he stated.
The Memphis, Tenn.-based NCC's mission is ensuring the ability of the U.S. cotton industry's seven industry segments to compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.
The U.S. cotton industry provides employment for some 200,000 Americans and produces direct business revenue of more than $27 billion. Accounting for the ripple effect of cotton through the broader economy, direct and indirect employment surpasses 420,000 workers with economic activity well in excess of $100 billion.