This Week’s Headlines
Maryland Farm Bureau joins ‘Ditch the Rule’ drive
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
RANDALLSTOWN, Md. (July 15, 2014) — The on-going campaign of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which has become known as “Ditch the Rule,” has turned nationwide with the enlistment of the state Farm Bureau organizations.
The AFBF is seeking to stall the adoption of an amendment to the Clean Water Act, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which would redefine what constitutes the “waters of the U.S.” to include even that in ditches.
The Maryland Farm Bureau launched its statewide effort at the Farm Bureau picnic in Queen Anne’s County when Matt Teffeau, MFB’s assistant director of government relations, showed up with “Ditch the Rule” signs and to urge farmers to get involved in the effort.
The comment period on the proposed amendment is to expire shortly and the AFBF has petitioned the EPA to expand it.
“It was timed perfectly,” Teffeau commented. “This is one of the busiest times in the year for farmers. But if the amendment is approved, it would have a huge inpact on agriculture.”
Teffeau continued: “Maryland Farm Bureau is committed to making sure our members are aware of this over reaching proposed rule by the EPA.
“We have already sent out action alerts, asking our members to get engaged and let their voices be heard to their members of Congress and to the EPA. At the end of the day, this rule will make it more difficult to farm or change a farming operations to remain competitive and profitable.
The Maryland Farm Bureau will continue to research this proposed 130 page rule and will send in official comments opposing the rule to the EPA”
The AFBF contends that EPA’s latest interpretation of the 1972 Clean Water Act could ultimately lead to the unlawful expansion of federal regulation to cover routine farming and ranching practices as well as other common private land uses, such as building homes.
“This rule is an end run around congressional intent and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, alike,” AFBF President Bob Stallman says. “Congress and the courts have both said that the 50 states, not EPA, have power to decide how farming and other land uses should be restricted. It’s time to ditch this rule.”
Among other things, the rule would expand federal control over land features such as ditches and areas of agricultural land that are wet only during storms, Stallman added.
EPA says its new rule clarifies the scope of the Clean Water Act. However, EPA’s “clarification” is achieved by categorically classifying most water features and even dry land as “waters of the United States.”
If carried out, Farm Bureau says, ordinary field work, fence construction or even planting could require a federal permit.
The result will be a wave of new regulation or outright prohibitions on routine farming practices and other land uses, Farm Bureau says.