In North Missouri, many people are farmers, ranchers, and livestock producers. Here, people rely on their land for their livelihood, and for recreation. But what there’s a lot of are property owners, and the same is true all around the country. Americans have a lot of pride in owning and maintaining their land, and many pieces of land go back generations as part of families, much like where I call home – Tarkio, MO.
Recently, reports from Washington indicated an attempt to undercut property owners and those who depend on their land to earn their living. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led by Administrator Gina McCarthy, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, released a new proposed rule to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposal would make changes to the meaning of “waters of the United States.”
Prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions imposed limits on the extent of federal CWA authority; however, the EPA is trying to bypass Congress to get a stronger foothold on your property.
For example, the EPA traditionally holds jurisdiction over waters that are “navigable.” Now, the EPA claims a vastly expanded jurisdiction over broad categories of waters, which could include ponds or streams on our farmland. Put simply, EPA regulators will use their “best professional judgment” in an attempt to gain access to our country’s farmland. Their end game is to regulate all water sources under the guise of the CWA, an intrusion which will only add more unwanted bureaucracy to agriculture.
In other words, the EPA intends to employ slight-of-hand and misdirection to give itself greater control over your backyard. The pond, stream, ditch, gully, and dried up river bed that hasn’t seen water in 100 years? Yes, you guessed it – the federal government can and will regulate them if the EPA has its way.
To add insult to injury, the EPA asserts that it is not expanding any authority. Rather, it is merely clarifying terms that cattlemen, livestock producers, and farmers get so confused over. In other words, the EPA believes it has had authority over the puddles and ditches in your backyard for decades.
In reality, what we are looking at is a new federal permitting scheme that employs arbitrary, ambiguous, and confusing terms to expand the size and scope of the EPA’s authority. This act of federal aggression and abuse is a direct assault on private property rights – a land grab that will result in fewer jobs, multiple permits, higher costs, lengthy litigation, and more delay and disruption for businesses.
What it means to a property owner: if you are spraying pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides anywhere in the vicinity of a natural farm pond, you need a permit. If you use prescribed burning and residue from the fires can land on that farm pond, you need a different permit. If you cut hay near that pond and do not follow the standard to the letter, you could need a permit. And if you graze cattle near the pond, you could need a permit. In effect, you will have less time and resources to manage your operation and prepare for drought because you will be busy filling out all the new permits required by EPA.
The President has made clear that his Administration will go to any length to enact his environmental agenda. It’s no surprise, then, that faulty studies and cherry-picked science has been used to back up the EPA’s new rule.
Too much is at risk. My home state of Missouri, for example, contains over 51,000 beef producers and over 2,000,000 head of cattle alone. This industry plays a huge role in the economic viability of the Heartland, providing revenue and jobs for our rural communities and providing food for the entire country. Without a doubt, the EPA’s new rule would stifle this economic activity, reduce employment, and threaten producers.
It’s not just agriculture that the EPA has in its crosshairs, but our economy and workforce at large; any industry that relies on land use, such as home builders, manufacturers, and municipalities around the country will fall victim to the mandates of Washington bureaucrats. In bypassing Congress and without the consent of the governed, the EPA’s egregious agenda is poised to strike at the heart of economic activity and job growth.
This Administration’s aggressive expansion of federal authority under the CWA has no place in your backyard, on your farm, in your fields, and not in Missouri. The President and the EPA need to put politics aside, and to level with the American people. The EPA’s dishonest and misleading assault on jobs and property owners must be taken off the table.