Update: Ag Group Forms to Fight Proposed EPA Water Rule
By Sara Kirkley, Weekend Anchor / Reporter - email
Protecting a puddle may sound excessive, but Nebraska’s agriculture leaders say that could be the case if a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency becomes a rule.
After some recent Supreme Court rulings, the EPA is trying to clarify what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act.
Tuesday, beef, pork, poultry, corn and soybean producers came together to fight the “Waters of the U.S.” rule.
In Travis Rainforth’s soybean field, they announced a new group called, “Common Sense Nebraska.”
You could still see where water ran through Rainforth's field after recent rains.
The Hall County farmer worries the proposed EPA rule could soon protect that water – now dried up.
"Potentially you lose an entire crop if you can't get in and get the things done that need to be done,” he said. “I mean, it could be complete devastation."
Ag leaders fear farmers and ranchers would need permits to spray or till their fields with sitting water. They said there's no guarantee those permits will be approved, which could change the industry significantly.
"If that changes, obviously the availability of food goes down. The cost of food goes up," said Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation.
But, the EPA said no new types of water will be protected and jurisdiction over some ditches may even be reduced.
Still, the proposal says "the agencies acknowledge that there may be more than one way to determine which waters are jurisdictional as ''other waters.''
"Part of the concern is that they've been really reluctant, is how we would characterize it, in really telling us what the specifics of the rules are," said Nelson.
With recent proposals that threatened to change ag practices, farmers like Rainforth aren't taking any chances.
"With the requiring farmers to get a CDL to drive a tractor or child labors, the only way we've really managed to stop those things is by pushing back and pushing back hard," he said.
Common Sense Nebraska said the rule could also impact county and city governments and home builders. They plan to reach out to those groups soon.
The EPA is taking comments on the rule untilOctober 20, but comments on agriculture exemptions close on July 6.