This past week, the National Corn Growers Association submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the draft guidance that identifies which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. Among NCGA’s concerns is that the new proposal could expand EPA's authority over isolated waters such as ditches and farm ponds.
The draft guidance, which was announced in April, was developed to clarify the scope of protections under the law following two Supreme Court decisions over the past decade. While the guidance maintains existing exemptions for normal farming and ranching activities, NCGA remains concerned that the new proposal could expand EPA's authority over isolated waters which would require growers to obtain additional permits.
For example, the proposal could significantly expand the scale of the pending NPDES permit program for pesticide applications. In addition, NCGA believes states should have the authority to regulate certain waters and that specific distinctions between state and federal jurisdiction are important.
"Our growers are concerned that this guidance modifies the current regulatory structure without the benefit of formal rulemaking and that if implemented as proposed it has the potential to impose significant regulatory burden and costs to growers," NCGA's comments stated. "The Guidance creates more uncertainty and confusion for landowners and farmers. As such, this proposed guidance will pervade all stages of operations, and will have a substantial impact on producers."
Although the proposed guidance does not have the full force and effect of law, regulatory decisions could still have an impact. NCGA joined with several other agriculture and environmental groups to request the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers initiate a formal rulemaking process on this matter to ensure transparency and public participation.