Kentucky farmers concerned that new water regs could drown some farming businesses

05/14/2015 05:56 PM

Kentucky’s farmers are concerned that new regulations concerning water could hamper their ability to farm their own land.

In March 2014, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule expanding the definitions of the “Waters of the United States” subject to the Clean Water Act. The rule added “neighboring” areas; and areas “adjacent” to waters of the United States to the regulatory program which would carry requirements for permitting, enforcement, and mitigation.

Farmers in Kentucky are concerned about the definitions of “neighboring” and “adjacent” because they say it could potentially produce costly restrictions which could severely hamper their farming operations.

Joe Cain, commodities director for Kentucky Farm Bureau, says that the vagueness of language leads to concerns about what lands and types of waters would be subject to federal permit regulations as well as limits on farming practices and other land uses.

“What they were looking at when you looked at the connectivity report that was attached to the rule, was looking at a biological connection, a hydrological connection, or a near proximity,” Cain said. “The concern that we have with that type of language that could be a ditch, it could be a pond, it could be a dry stream that hardly ever has water in it, because it sometimes holds water. So, anything that can potentially hold water could potentially be under the regulatory scope of EPA and the Corps of Engineers.”

Bob Schwenke, who has spent his life farming in rural Boone County is concerned that more regulations gives him less control farming his own land.

“It seems like we’re losing our controls of what we do,” Schwenke said. “I think as a whole, the farm community is probably as good a environmentalist there is. I mean we want to take care of our property, and the land we own, the land we lease, and we want it to be there for our generation, our kids, our grand kids.”

The Senate version of HR 1732 will be S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. It will be heard in Senate committee May 19, and, in all likelihood make it to the floor sometime soon after.

S. 1140 requires the agencies to withdraw the current proposal and conduct necessary consultations before the regulation is re-proposed. This legislation also requires the agencies to adhere to certain limiting principles to ensure that any new proposed regulation conforms to the jurisdictional limits set by Congress.


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