Q: What happens next with the EPA’s proposed regulations?
A: Considering the EPA’s track record when it comes to American agriculture, it’s not surprising Iowa farmers feel a bit like fish bait in this debate. The vast majority of EPA regulators have never set foot on a farm. I make it a priority to educate EPA administrators and regulators about agriculture so they have a better appreciation for how proposed rules and regulations impact a family farmer’s day-to-day business and livelihood. Last April, I shared concerns held by many in rural America with the President’s nominee to head the EPA. At that time, we discussed the EPA’s releasing personal information about livestock producers to political activists; concerns of rural electric cooperatives regarding costly new regulations for coal-fired electricity; and aerial surveillance of farms. As with most federal agencies, let’s just say it requires diligent oversight to reel in bureaucratic efforts to expand the size and scope of their jurisdiction. The latest red herring at the EPA involves its efforts to win regulatory authority of isolated water bodies that have the most tangential relationship to “navigable” waterways. In other words, it seems the EPA is fishing for ways to cast a wider net to expand implementation of the Clean Water Act over virtually all waters in the United States, public and private. Court rulings have averted past efforts by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to claim jurisdiction over isolated wetlands and streambeds. So now the EPA wants to “clarify” which waterways should be subject to federal regulation. Changes to this federal rule may open a can of worms for farmers. Would farm ponds, drainage ditches, culverts, dams and dry creek beds fall under the EPA lens? Would farmers need costly environmental assessments and permits before they start work in their fields? These are legitimate questions that deserve valid answers. The public will have 90 days to comment on the EPA’s proposed rule change after it is published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register is a daily journal where federal agencies submit proposed rules, final rules and official notices for the public record. I encourage Iowans to register their view, and I will continue working from the U.S. Senate to rein in bureaucratic overreach.