On December 11 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new water rule designed to replace the overreaching and illegal 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule. David Trowbridge, president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association issued the following statement in response:
“EPA’s proposed new WOTUS rule is encouraging, and the agency’s work to repeal and replace the 2015 rule is appreciated by Iowa’s cattlemen. This is an important step forward in replacing the onerous and illegal rule with a definition that protects producers’ property rights and provides clarity while also safeguarding our water. The proposed rule reflects the important strides forward our association has made with EPA to help them understand the impact their rules have on Iowa’s independent, progressive cattlemen.”
Environmental regulations are consistently among producers’ top three concerns in surveys conducted by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.
“The inability to determine what constitutes a Water of the US handcuffs producers,” says ICA’s Business Issues committee chair, Mark Putney. “Uncertainty over current or future regulations, such as the WOTUS rule, stifles growth of the industry and discourages producers from making changes on their farms that would benefit their farm, the environment and Iowa’s rural economy.”
For over 20 years, debate surrounding the scope of federal authority over “waters of the United States”, or WOTUS, has resulted in litigation and regulatory uncertainty. Supreme Court cases addressing these issues added additional confusion to the Clean Water Act’s implementation. The Obama administration took an unlawfully broad view of federal jurisdiction over waters, causing 31 states and many agricultural, small business, and industry groups to challenge the administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule.
The Trump Administration has been working forward on repeal and replacement of the 2015 rule since shortly after taking office. The proposed rule will be open for a 60-day public comment period. ICA plans to participate by providing feedback on behalf of Iowa’s cattlemen and encourages members to comment, too.
Through this process, ICA staff and leaders have been working with EPA staff through the Animal Agriculture Discussion Group and NCBA’s Environmental Working Group to encourage EPA to recognize the value of animal agriculture and the voluntary environmental stewardship efforts of cattlemen. ICA’s involvement in these groups has forged important relationships vital in relaying cattlemen’s concerns with environmental regulation, including WOTUS. For example, Hema Subramanian, Acting Special Assistant for Agriculture Policy in EPA’s Office of the Administrator sat down with Iowa cattlemen at last week at the Iowa Cattle Industry Leadership Summit. Subramanian heard directly from producers about challenges faced on Iowa cattle operations with environmental rules and offered ideas for continuing collaboration between industry and the agency.
The proposed WOTUS rule defines six categories of waters that would be considered “waters of the United States” and subject to federal jurisdiction:
Traditional navigable waters (TNWs) such as large rivers and lakes
Tributaries of TNWs, NOT including ephemeral features
Certain ditches that resemble traditional navigable waters\
Certain lakes and ponds, including oxbow lakes and others that contribute perennial or intermittent flow to a TNW
Adjacent wetlands, which includes wetlands that physically touch other jurisdictional waters
Ephemeral features that contain water only during or in response to rainfall, groundwater, most farm and roadside ditches, prior converted cropland, stormwater control features and waste treatment systems, including lagoons and settling basins would not be subject to federal jurisdiction under the new rule.
About the Iowa Cattlemen's Association: The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association represents nearly 10,000 beef-producing families and associated companies dedicated to the future of Iowa’s beef industry. ICA’s mission is “Grow Iowa’s beef business through advocacy, leadership and education."