The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation submitted comments this week asking for the withdrawal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Interpretive Rule that will govern how they interpret the “normal farming exemptions” contained in the Clean Water Act.
“The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) has significant concerns with the EPA’s Interpretive Rule and are asking that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers withdraw the rule immediately,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap.
“The EPA’s interpretive rule does not provide additional permit exemptions beyond what is already authorized by Congress,” said Paap. “In fact, this interpretive rule will actually narrows existing exemptions and introduces time-consuming and costly compliance requirements.”
“Under the interpretive rule farmers and ranchers are not provided any flexibility in how they conduct normal farming activities on their land or face costly fines,” said Paap. “If ditches and wet spots in fields are deemed "waters of the United States," many routine farming and ranching activities -such as building a fence, applying fertilizer, pulling weeds and spraying for weed and insect control - could require a permit.”
MFBF also asked for attention to the following:
- What constitutes "established/ongoing" farming eligible for exemptions?
- Will a famer need pre-approval for any normal farming activity not listed as an exempted practice?
- Will the 124 NRCS conservation practices not listed also be exempt from Section 404 permit requirements as "normal farming activities" if they result in a discharge of dredged or filled material?
- How will the interpretive rule be enforced? What is each agency's role in enforcement?
- How should farmers and ranchers ensure compliance with the NRCS conservation standards if they do not seek technical assistance from NRCS?
- Will the public be able to comment as changes are made to the list of exempted practices?
“The EPA is over-reaching its authority with this proposal to manage all waters on a federal level. Most farms would not be exempt from this rule,” said Paap.