To begin with, the government’s attempt to control the waters of the U.S. sounds ambiguous. Doing it through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers makes it suspect. Extending control and protection to mud puddles, drainage depressions, and casual ponds brands the effort as ludicrous.
These are the opinions of many farmers who have studied the proposal offered under the Waters of the U.S. rule proposed by Congress. Comment on the proposed extension of the rule closed November 14. Debate in Congress is expected to begin soon and continue well into next year.
Many farmers see the expansion of the rule as a federal control issue. It requires many of them who have not been affected before to apply for permits if their properties are adjacent to or bisected by “waters of the U. S.” This includes drainage runoff after a rain and standing water in natural depressions that evaporates in dry weather.
Part of the language includes reference to “navigable waters,” but extends that term to cover seasonal streams, ponds, bogs, depressions, and puddles that can’t even float a child’s toy boat except in a downpour.
“Control” and “protection” of these dubious water channels require owners of property where they exist to apply for permits when work is done that touches, changes, or “threatens” them.
At its worst, the language expanding the act is viewed by many in agriculture as a means to control their land and restrict its use. The permits it requires might (probably will) take extended periods to receive, often requiring approval from a number of different agencies plus inspections and studies that delay farming practices.
Many of the low places that flood during rainy weather are integral parts of cultivated fields when they are dry enough to disc and plant. “Protecting” them translates to a major interruption in the farming – particularly planting – schedule for some crops including grains.
Vocal opposition to the rule’s expansion has come from the American Farm Bureau and its state affiliates. The organization launched its “Ditch the Rule” campaign, and on Halloween night projected it through social media as a warning of complications, delays, and control issues that might accompany it.
This is not the first time farm interests have been challenged by environmental zealots, but this issue seems to transcend some of the earlier attempts by proposing penalties that amount to condemning farmers’ lands and properties and placing them in the hands of the federal government.
Preventing such takeovers and confiscatory behavior by the feds will be practically impossible if the rule is adopted and applied.
The only way to prevent that kind of dictatorial abuse is to “Ditch the rule.”