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May 28, 2015

Mary Johnson
(334) 235-1406

Alabama farmers worry ambiguous language in the EPA's Waters of the U.S. rule could lead to increased regulations including in fields that only hold water after a heavy rain such as the one pictured above.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama farmers worry the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finalized Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule released Wednesday could greatly increase regulation of agriculture under the Clean Water Act. 

While legal experts are still reviewing the final rule, farm groups say EPA’s past efforts to broaden its jurisdiction are cause for concern.

“Since releasing the proposed WOTUS rule in April 2014, EPA has used taxpayer money to aggressively promote its plan to regulate virtually every stream and wetland under the Clean Water Act,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “By inserting ambiguous language into the rule, EPA is opening the door to regulate any activity by a farmer, homeowner or business in areas that would not have been regulated prior to this new rule.” 

Supporters of private property rights have criticized EPA’s rule-making process as flawed. Of particular concern was the agency’s failure to seek farmer input prior to releasing the proposed rule and its grassroots campaign to generate favorable feedback during the comment period. Critics also question whether EPA read and evaluated the more than one million comments received before issuing a final rule — just six months later.

EPA’s press release attempted to address farmer concerns about the Clean Water Act being used to regulate ditches and eroded areas in fields. It states “ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.” It goes on to say, “The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for America’s farmers. Activities like planting, harvesting and moving livestock have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation, and the Clean Water Rule preserves those exemptions.”

However, the release goes on to say tributaries and “nearby waters” would be protected. This vague language concerns farmers.

“Based on EPA’s aggressive advocacy campaign in support of its original proposed rule – and the agency’s numerous misstatements about the content and impact of that proposal – we find little comfort in the agency’s assurances that our concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way,” said American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman. “The process used to produce this rule was flawed. The EPA’s proposal transgressed clear legal boundaries set for it by Congress and the courts and dealt more with regulating land use than protecting our nation’s valuable water resources.”

AFBF expects to complete its review of the final rule in a few days and will decide on an appropriate course of action at that time.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015. This legislation prevents the administration from implementing the WOTUS rule. It also requires the EPA to rewrite the rule and consider public input from the thousands of Americans who submitted comments on this matter. A similar measure, S. 1140, awaits action in the Senate.

To read the final rule and EPA news release, visit

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