Ag News

AFBF disappointed in first WOTUS roundtable

by Compiled by Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on May 18, 2022 at 0:00 AM

On May 9, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army held the first of 10 regional roundtable discussions centering on proposed return to standards under the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule in place before 2015.

In response to the first roundtable, which focused on the Midwest, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) released a statement on May 11 saying the first meeting fell short of addressing farmers’ need for clear rules, and that participants lacked relevant experience.

“In theory, these meetings are designed to bring folks with different perspectives together to talk about regionally specific implementation concerns pertaining to WOTUS,” AFBF Senior Director of Government Affairs Courtney Briggs said. “And the list of participants for this first roundtable was diverse on paper, but we are very concerned about the lack of diversity of experience on the panel. And few of these participants have actually navigated the regulatory process associated with Clean Water Act compliance.”

The EPA and Army replaced the WOTUS rule changed during the Obama administration with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule in June 2020, following an executive order from then-President Donald Trump. In 2021, the Biden administration announced plans to restore the pre-2015 rule and move forward with establishing a new rule.

On April 29, state Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) wrote to U.S. Senators John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock asking that they publicly oppose the revised rule and to work with Biden administration officials to halt its implementation. The letter was signed by leaders of nine Georgia agricultural organizations, including Georgia Farm Bureau.

“The future success of our state’s number on industry and Georgia’s overall economy will directly be impacted by this decision,” Harper wrote, noting that under the new rule, farmers would be subject to increased inspections, forced to hire additional lawyers and have to endure additional permitting and paperwork.

The roundtable discussions were presented as a chance for various sectors, including agriculture, to “engage and discuss their experiences with implementing the definition of ‘waters of the United States,’ including challenges and opportunities within their geographic areas,” according to the EPA.

The roundtable meetings are being held virtually and the EPA is making them available for streaming on the following day. The one focusing on the Southeast is scheduled for June 23 at 1 p.m. and will be hosted by North Carolina Farm Bureau.

For more information about the roundtable discussions, click here.

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