Virginia farmers are celebrating a new clean water rule that brings clarity to the regulatory requirements and enforcement of the Clean Water Act.
The new rule was issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to replace the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule. The Trump administration rescinded that rule last year and implemented the replacement on Jan. 23. The new rule eliminated requirements for landowners to get EPA approval for certain modifications on their own lands. It also removed many seasonal streams, small waterways and wetlands from restrictive federal oversight.
“Clean water, clear rules,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “It provides clarity and certainty, allowing farmers to understand water regulations without having to hire teams of consultants and lawyers.”
AFBF is a member of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, a cross-section of small businesses, farmers, ranchers and builders who applauded the new rule. In a public statement, the coalition specified that the new rule does not reduce or remove environmental protections of any waters, “it simply brings clarity to which level of government oversees which body of water under the federal-state partnership established by the Clean Water Act.”
Ben Rowe, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation national affairs coordinator, said the federal-state arrangement has been a success. “It’s something farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed know as well as anyone.”
The small changes to the rule “will yield a big benefit for the economy and environment,” Rowe said. “The new rule provides the regulatory clarity and certainty farmers need to make confident decisions related to planting, expansion and conservation as they produce the food, fuel and fiber the American people, and our customers, rely on.”
Eastern Shore farmer and VFBF Young Farmers Committee Chairman Kyle Sturgis grows row crops, wheat and aquaculture products near the Chesapeake Bay and has closely followed WOTUS and the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The introduction of the previous rule, and the subsequent legal challenges and issues it created left Sturgis with uncertainty.
“It’s always been in the back of our minds that it could happen,” Sturgis said. “Seeing them ‘ditch’ the rule and this come to fruition eases my mind and is a burden off my shoulders.”