OCA President Says 'Waters of the US' Rule, More About Property Rights Than WaterWed, 09 Jul 2014 17:33:44 CDT
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region Six officials heard from Oklahoma agricultural leaders this week about the 'Water of the US' (WOTUS) interpretative rule as well as the 'Waters of the US' proposal itself. Representing the cattle industry was Richard Gebhart, President of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association. He says the interpretative rule which defines normal farming and ranching practices and the role itself will be detrimental to agriculture.
"The interpretative rule, that defines normal farming practices and says if you do normal farming practices you will not have to have a section 404 permit," Gebhart said. "The kicker is that to do those normal farming practices, they are defined by 52 NRCS practices that can be by the interpretive rule and MoU (Memorandum of understanding) by the Core of Engineers and USDA."
"They will review them every five years and can change those and add to them at anytime," he said. "Those include everything from fencing requirements to prescribed burns."
Earlier this year Gebhart heard EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy as she spoke to a group of cattlemen and cattlewomen from across the nation and she said "We will continue to allow you to farm and ranch".
"I think its just an indication of how upside down the federal government views our property rights," Gebhart said. "It seems to me that I am going to continue to allow her to regulate part of my private property, not her to continue allow me to enjoy my private property. "
Gebhart says the WOTUS rule is about more than regulating water.
"It's whole misdirection, it's called the 'Waters of the United States of America', but its really about regulating the earth, the ground," he said.
At the meeting Gebhart challenged EPA officials to describe a piece of ground in the United States of America that would not be covered by this regulation, but not one of them chose to do so.
The delegation of ag leadership in attendance also challenged the two Region six officials to pull the rule. Gebhart says it's an opportunity for the EPA Administrator to set back and show leadership two mistakes aren't going to make it right. He says this rule has issued before McCarthy has released her final science report, so he thinks she needs to withdrawal this rule, build some bridges with agricultural community and other community stakeholders and try it again.
"I hope people understand what going on here, I really didn't until I read the rule," Gebhart said. "If you thought the child labor laws where abusive, you are not going to farm and ranch without doing those 52 things or getting a 404 permit."
Ag organizations are also concerned how this changes the role of the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Gebhart says this proposal put the agency in a enforcement situation, as opposed to be a consultant or partner with landowners.
"This is huge for Oklahoma's farmers and ranchers," Gebhart said . "You are not going to have the land unless you do exactly what the federal government tell you to do if this rule goes through."
The comment period through the Federal Register on the proposed rule continues through October 20th.
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