If you think agriculture has won the three-year battle over the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, think again.
Although the EPA has rescinded the Obama administration’s original version and is poised to offer an alternative under the Trump Administration, Cody Lyon, managing director of advocacy and political affairs with the American Farm Bureau Federation, contends that “it isn’t over until we get the rules approved and put it behind us.”
While the EPA has announced a new WOTUS rule that’s been published and will soon be open for public comment, Lyon advises farmers to stay engaged. AFBF unveiled the organization’s Clean Water-Clear Rules campaign during the annual meeting in New Orleans this week, which will allow farmers to support the new WOTUS proposal by simply filling out and mailing postcards and/or by accessing a digital option.
The objective, according to Lyon, is to send a clear message to the EPA that it’s time to clarify and fix the clean water rule, once the agency opens the new WOTUS rule for public comment.
“This rule provides the clarity farmers need,” he said. “This is a good rule and we need farmers to tell the EPA to finalize this rule — the more the better. We’ve been waiting three years for this opportunity — now it’s time to take advantage of it.”
According to Lyons, the comment period comes down to a numbers game at this point, stressing that there will always be opposition when it comes to environmental rules and regulations, particularly on this issue which appeared to be a done deal just two years ago thanks to an all-out effort by environmental special interest groups.
AFBF President Zippy Duvall echoed that warning to members during his annual address, saying the comment period is open for everybody to comment, including opponents.
“Let me tell you, environmental activists hate this new rule — they like the old one,” Duvall warned. “They’re gonna come out in force and try to defeat this new rule to get it withdrawn. We’re going to make sure that everybody’s involved in this campaign of Clean Water, Clear Rules, and we’re going to make sure that every farmer that hears the message about this sends a message in.”
Depending on how long the public docket is open for comments, anywhere from 60 to 90 days, Lyons expects the EPA could go another 90 days to review comments, before issuing a final WOTUS package.
“We could be another six months to a year out,” he concluded.