Pending water regulations worry producers

DES MOINES, Iowa — American farmers are living in fear of U.S. water regulations that could cripple them if allowed to be implemented, says the president of the National Pork Producers Council.

“Everyone’s afraid,” John Weber told reporters at the World Pork Expo.

The regulations are currently suspended by lawsuits and challenges from states and organizations.

“Our intent is to keep it tied up in the legal system as long as we can until this is really brought out that we need to sit down together with the Environmental Protection Agency and write a rule that is workable long term for production agriculture,” he said.

The situation is similar to the one in parts of Canada in the 2000s, when many farmers felt federal water regulations were being imposed too aggressively on land affecting farmers.

Pork council officials said the American regulations, called the Waters of the United States rule, contain elements that worry farmers, which is why they have fought their implementation.

They include:

  • expensive permits
  • heavy penalties that can be exploited by activists
  • the right for people who are not neighbours or directly affected by a farm’s actions to comment on and demand restrictions on the farm’s actions
  • regulatory control over anywhere water exists or could affect water

“You have people in Brooklyn or San Francisco (who) also get to weigh in,” said Michael Formica, NPPC’s assistant-vice president for domestic policy.

He said agriculture “needs to be petrified” by the overreach made possible by the WOTUS rules.

Weber said he doubted that president Barack Obama’s administration will be willing to alter the rules enough to satisfy farmers, but the next administration might be more amenable.

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