WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), encouraged support for the Trump administration’s definition of water rules that will provide certainty for Arkansas agriculture producers.
During an EPW hearing to review the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulations, Boozman shared the challenges farmers face under the previous administration’s WOTUS rule and the need to redefine the policy.
“The permitting exemption for ordinary farming and ranching activities from the Obama administration’s stated WOTUS rule was meaningless,” Boozman said. “Imagine the frustration that farmers feel as they go through the permitting process.”
Boozman highlighted the experience of a landowner who was changing the use of a field from growing alfalfa to instead plant orchards in 2015. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that action would constitute a land use change which would allow Corps regulators to pursue enforcement action if plowing the field to plant trees involved a discharge to wetlands.
The Corps regulator informed the landowner that despite an extensive farming history, orchards were never planted on the ranch so they are not the same kind of farming and might not be considered a normal farming activity.
Doug Goehring, commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, testified before the committee and told Boozman that he had conversations with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials about what defined normal agricultural practices.
“Everybody said ‘we’re going to deal with this case-by-case.’ The problem is you never had a consistent answer depending on who you’re talking to,” Goehring said. “All of a sudden it could be detrimental or perceived detrimental that a normal common practice would have constituted a permit or permission to actually farm and ranch in a responsible manner.”
This was the first committee hearing on WOTUS since the Trump administration published its definition of the rule. Boozman has been strongly opposed to the Obama administration’s WOTUS rule and worked to overturn it.