Farm Bureau members have a vital stake in respecting and protecting our nation’s waters and streams, both for ourselves and for future generations, while remaining a leader in feeding the world. Farmers and ranchers will take second place to no one in our commitment to the land and the water where we raise our crops, tend our livestock and raise our children.
Clean Water Act (CWA)
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is one of our nation’s most successful environmental statutes improving surface water. Currently, legislation has been introduced, the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA), which would expand federal authority over virtually every water body in the nation by revising the CWA.
The Clean Water Act’s use of the term “navigable waters” has been a governing factor in the implementation of the law since 1972, which made it clear that Congress intended broad, but not limitless, regulatory authority and to focus regulatory efforts on meaningful resources and not attempt to regulate every wet spot or roadside ditch.
Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA)
The CWRA removes the term “navigable waters” and replaces it with “waters of the United States.” If enacted, the CWRA will also grant federal regulators jurisdiction authority over all ‘activities affecting these waters’ for the first time ever. An expansion of this magnitude would not only result in an added regulatory burden on farmers and ranchers but create increased confusion regarding the jurisdictional reach of the CWA.
Proponents of this legislation are prepared to move CWRA through the U.S. Senate in the upcoming months. This legislation is set to be heard first in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee of which Senator Klobuchar is a member.
A May 10 StarTribune editorial, “The Nation’s Water Resource must be Protected,” noted that Senator Klobuchar has been “criticized…for her ‘silence’” on this issue. This is not an accurate statement in my opinion, Minnesota Farm Bureau appreciates the time Senator Klobuchar and her staff are devoting to learn about the impacts of this legislation.
If you have not already, Farm Bureau members should contact Senator Klobuchar to express our opposition to this expansive and sweeping piece of legislation called the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787). Also, thank her for taking time to make an informed decision to ensure that she represents the best interest of all Minnesotans.
Our opposition to this bill may cause some to accuse us of not caring about clean water and the environment. However, that could not be further from the truth. As farmers and conservationists, Farm Bureau members care deeply about the environment and water quality. We work hard in reducing soil erosion, reducing sedimentation in streams and lakes, improving water quality, establishing wildlife habitat and enhancing forest and wetland resources in a sound and sustainable manner. But, federal jurisdiction over waters should be based on common sense and reasonableness. If not, millions of people whose livelihoods are affected by land-use decisions will be needlessly impacted, without meaningful improvement in water quality.
Minnesota Farm Bureau is committed to continuing the dialogue on this important issue and will work together with all our elected officials in a cooperative, constructive way.