'Ditch the Rule' Resonates in Farm Country- AFBF's Don Parrish Hopes it Brings the HeatMon, 05 May 2014 18:03:22 CDT
Ever since the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers recently proposed a new rule that would regulate far more than navigable waters on the Clean Water Act, farmers, ranchers and landowners have been studying the issue. Their conclusion has been almost unanimous that the implementation of such a rule would hamstring their operations. The EPA is continuing its march forward to implement its rule, but some farm groups are starting to push back.
Don Parrish with the American Farm Bureau Federation spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays in Washington. You can hear their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story. Parrish says his group is very concerned with the rule and intends to fight back.
"Our biggest concern is that they are trying to regulate features on the landscape that aren't water at all and we know that that's going to have an impact not only the value of farmers' property but on the kind of activities they can do. And that's going to be detrimental to our ability to produce food and fiber."
As proposed, the rule would appear to require farmers to go through a burdensome permitting process to engage in routine activities on their farms such as cleaning out ditches. The EPA has said that it envisions including plenty of exemptions for agriculture in their rules making process. Parrish says many farmers are having a hard time believing the agency.
"I think they are misleading people. And I think that if farmers take action based on their words, there's going to be repercussions for that. And I wonder what they're going to say at the end of the day when there's enforcement actions or civil suits against farmers. I think they're going to have to answer for that."
He said the impact of the proposal is starting to make its impact felt among lawmakers and staffers on Capitol Hill.
"They're just starting to get their arms around it, but our members out in the countryside recognize and are very fearful of how broadly this rule is written. I wish this rule had been written in very plain English terms, in terms that are very transparent for farmers to understand, but it's not. It's written in legalese. It's cloaked in very-difficult-to-understand terms. And, really, it kind of gives the agencies a blank check-a blank check that we think our members are going to have to cash at some point and that means restrictions on what they can do and how they can use their land or even if they can use their land."
Environmental groups are pushing hard to keep the rules intact and Parrish says that groups' goal is to arrogate to their allies in government the ability to control activities on private lands.
"It's not about protecting water, it's about giving EPA authority to veto land uses."
Parrish says that the issue may well end up in the courts one day, but that they are doing everything possible to prevent the rule's enactment at all.
"It's an end run around Congress. It's an end run around the Supreme Court and we think it's pretty apparent on its face."
The American Farm Bureau Federation has mounted a "Ditch the Rule" campaign which is outlined online at http://ditchtherule.fb.org/. At the very least, AFBF is urging its members to:
Support extending the current 90-day comment period to 180 days to give farmers and ranchers time to review the proposed rule and provide input;
Comment about the impact the proposed rule would have on farms;
Support any efforts in Congress to rein in the federal government's expansion of control over private land;
Engage in traditional social media campaigns to bring attention to the impacts of the proposed rule on landowners, small businesses and the economy, as well as agriculture.
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