Water’s of the US


(Conrad) Good morning and welcome to AG am in Kansas. My name is Conrad Kabus. Recently we had the opportunity to talk with people at the meeting focused on the Waters of the US proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency. Gina McCarthy was the guest speaker. We also talked to Steve Baccus from the Kansas Farm Bureau about the proposed ruling. (Steve) I’m Steve Baccus. I serve as President of Kansas Farm Bureau and I’m a farmer from north central Kansas, up around Minneapolis. We were able to attend the Kansas City Agribusiness Council Luncheon today where the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency spoke after lunch, Gina McCarthy. And the primary focus of her comments revolved around the Waters of the U.S. proposal coming out of the EPA. This proposal has stirred up the agricultural industry significantly, because the way we read the proposal it appears as though the Environmental Protection Agency is strengthening and broadening their control over the waters of the U.S. And they do this with the auspices of the Clean Water Act. And the problem with that is that the Clean Water Act is supposed to cover the navigable waters of the United States. And Congress on at least two occasions and the Supreme Court on three occasions has refused to remove the word navigable from the Clean Water Act. So, some of the waters that the EPA is talking about covering under this new rule are small streams and ditches if you will, that only flow water intermittently. And when they do flow water, they may flow into a reservoir that is used for drinking water but it’s certainly not navigable waters of the United States. So according to the Supreme Court and according to the U.S. Congress it would not fall under the auspices of the Clean Water Act being administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. (Gina) Today, I am here to talk about the Clean Water Act proposal, which was a proposed rule that was really generated because the Supreme Court told us we had to take some action, State organizations told us, numerous agriculture stakeholder groups told us and the aim of the proposal and the reason why we need to take action is to really clear up some legal confusion so that we can properly protect waters that are actually vital for public health. And we had to do it in a way that used sound science, so that we could get our job done. And we also know that part of that challenge was to do this in a way that would keep farmers and ranchers and the ag industry as a whole, doing what they do best, which is to produce the food, fuel and fiber that really provide for our American way of life that we all so cherish. (Conrad) After the break we talk with Glenn Bronkow who expressed his concern with the EPA ruling on ditches. He takes time to explain the EPA proposed ruling over the Waters of the U.S. by using slight natural drainage on his farm. Stay tuned.

(Conrad) After the break, we will talk with Glenn Bronkow who expressed his concern with the EPA ruling on ditches. He takes time to explain the EPA proposed ruling over the Waters of the U.S. by using slight, natural drainage on his farm. Stay tuned. (Glen) I am Glenn Bronkow, a fifth generation farmer and rancher here north of Wamego, Kansas, and today I want to talk a little bit about the proposed EPA ruling. You can see a slight natural drainage behind me here and that’s one of the structures that we’re most concerned with. Drainage that you see behind me here, it just runs right after a rain, maybe for up to an hour after a rain, it just catches this little patch of native grass here that is still the prairie that has never been torn up. And the water runs through it just as long as there is water for the run off, which is very briefly and down into another structure and finally into the creek. My concerns with what I heard from Administrator McCarthy was that they said that it wasn’t regulating man made structures and then she went on to say that natural occurring structures that run water just temporarily could be under the jurisdiction and that is a ditch like this or drainage like this, is one of them that I understood her as being talked about. I do not think that is what the intention of the Waters of the United States was when the original bill was drafted, or the original rule was drafted. The other concern that I had was, she said that they did not intend to make us get permits, at least they did not think they would. She used other language like that but never would come out and say that they would not. I would sure like to hear her say that they will not require us to have permits, period and to amend the rule that way. (Gina) Now the bottom line is if a farmer or a rancher didn’t need a permit before, if this rule moves forward as proposed, it won’t then. It will not require a permit. But I know that in between now and then we have a long discussion that we need to have together. We don’t anticipate that the process of looking at whether or not something that is in this grey area is jurisdictional or the process of getting a permit changes at all, that continues to be the process. And what we’re trying to do is actually solicit comments on these definitions so that we can make them as crisp and clear as possible so that we minimize the kind of case by case review that’s necessary. But I think you all know that thousands of permits are issued every year. Many of those permits require somebody looking at them going, “Yep I get it, OK.” And you’re off. And so we don’t expect that to change at all. What we are asking you to do however, is to look at our definitions, to make sure that we have narrowed this as much as we can. That it makes sense to you and that it helps to make those case by case reviews as low resource needs as possible. Because we really do only want to address attention when it is a significant source of potential impact that we are talking about. And so, take a look at the proposed definitions. If you think that there’s ways in which we can narrow that or make that more certain, we’ll certainly bring the Corps and EPA together to figure out how we do that. (Conrad) After the break we visit with Jeff Grossenbacher from the Kansas Farm Bureau about the ditch the rule initiative. Stay tuned.

(Conrad) Welcome back to AG am in Kansas. I am Conrad Kabus and we visited with Jeff Grossenbacher who expressed his concern with the EPA ruling on ditches and we visited about the “Ditch the Rule” initiative. (Jeff) My name is Jeff Grossenbacher. I am on the Kansas Farm Bureau Board of Directors and in District One in northeast Kansas. I live around the little town of Bern in northern Nemaha County. Behind you would see our family’s original homestead at 120 acres. We have been farming here in this area since 1859. I am a fifth generation farmer. EPA McCarthy has said a lot of things that were right for the audience she was talking to. But there is a lot of grey left in the 370 page document. It’s not in black and white as to what would be under their auspices and regulations. Behind me you see waterways that are part of grader ditches along roadsides and waterways that bring water. At times of heavy rains they’re all carrying water. They have high water marks then and they have streambeds and they have banks. So under their definition in this document they would become part of the Waters of the U.S. In Kansas we have departments that have done a good job of protecting our waters with the State Water Office, the KDHE and the DWR. They would basically be put out of business with these new regulations. I don’t think they’re necessary. (Gina) So what are we doing about ditches? I heard a lot about ditches. Way more than I ever thought I would talk about ditches. I very seldom use the word ditch, since I was a little kid when we used to ditch one another, if you remember those days. It is amazing to me how difficult it’s been to define what ditch we care about and all the many ditches we don’t. So let me give a shot at it. Take a shot at it. Water from these very small sources are things that we care about and that we have to deal with. But we don’t have to deal with every ditch. EPA is not saying that ditches are jurisdictional. In fact, our proposal specifically says that we’re not regulating all ditches. Unlike current existing regulations which don’t make that clarification. Why did we do that? Because while some ditches are actually connected to larger water systems and are therefore jurisdictional because they’re vital to public health and to water quality. The vast majority of ditches simply aren’t important from a water quality perspective, I don’t want to deal with them any more than you want me to deal with them. Most of them don’t look and act and feel like a stream. If they don’t then they’re not important, we can take them off the table. Help me put that into language that provides surety that that’s what I am going to be doing moving forward. (Jeff) Under the new regulations, the burden of proof if a farmer or landowner would be found in violation, the burden of proof is on the farmer to prove his innocence. That is a complete flip-flop from what the Clean Water Act in 1972 said. These ditches and waterways flow into a creek that runs through three miles of my ground. This creek would become a Water of the U.S. It is not navigable, never has been, never will be. And that term navigable is in the Clean Water Act over 200 times for a reason. It defines what the EPA and the Corps of Engineers can and cannot regulate. Under this new 370-page document they would be able to regulate this creek. Because of the grey areas in the document and the lack of having everything in black and white, American Farm Bureau and Kansas Farm Bureau have started a campaign called “Ditch the Rule.” You can go to a website at www.ditchtherule.fb.org or you can go to your local county Farm Bureau and they can help you learn more about the campaign. We urge you to get involved, write to the EPA. There is still a comment period. The more people that write, the better chance we have of getting this ruling stopped and getting some common sense put back into it. (Conrad) We wrap up with Steve Baccus from the Kansas Farm Bureau and how the bureau will keep the line of communication open with the Environmental Protection Agency about the grey area concerning navigable waters. Stay tuned.

(Conrad) Welcome back to AG am in Kansas. I’m Conrad Kabus. We talked with Steve Baccus from the Kansas Farm Bureau about his concern about navigable waters as proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. (Steve) These were some of the concerns that we were expressing to Administrator McCarthy today She did a very nice job talking to the group. One of the encouraging things that I like that she said early on was that she wants to continue the conversation until everyone is satisfied. (Gina) We still are sort of convinced that we have not opened up the door to regulating land practices and we need to figure how you’re reading it and how we can best understand the concerns and respond to them. We know what we intended with this. We need to make sure that the language is as clear as it can be and that these types of pretty large, what we think of as misreading of the statutes and the law, not just the intent. How we can address those issues. (Steve) She is dedicated to working out the concerns that the agriculture industry has and coming to a common conclusion. And we will absolutely take her at her word for that and we will be more than willing to sit down on every occasion with Ms. McCarthy as well as her regional administrators and anyone else in the EPA that we can talk to, to try to work through some of these issues. (Gina) I know that this is a hard one for all of us, but I am here to tell you that EPA is not going to shy away from it. We need to resolve these issues, we need to provide a firmer ground for us to all move from at this point. Maintaining the areas of lack of clarity in the rule is not in your best interest and it’s not in our best interest. And so to the extent that we can work together in collaboration, partnership to get this done, I think it will enhance our ability to continue to resolve the issues that are so important to you and I and the American public. And again, I thank you for your willingness to be here. I thank you for the concerns that you’ve raised. I will once again tell you that if you don’t raise those concerns we won’t understand how you may be reading this, and we won’t be able to resolve them. So be active. Be engaged. If you’re upset, let us know. You know if you can come to the table at meetings that we have both sponsored by the regions and headquarters, you know, come to the table. But be prepared that if you are raising issues, show us where the issues comes from so that we can figure out how to resolve it. The more detailed you can get, the more we can be responsive to that. And I think that we all know that in the end the quality of our water is something that we all share. Our values, it’s our common value. Let’s figure out how we get to achieve that common value in ways that also recognize the importance of agriculture to our American way of life. Thank you all very much. (Steve) So as an organization, we will continue to work with the EPA but what we want is to continue to receive information from our members. Everybody is aware of the “Ditch the Rule” campaign that has been being worked on for the last several weeks. We want to keep that continuing. We want to keep the pressure up on the government officials so we want individuals to stay in contact with Kansas Farm Bureau and feed us your concerns, your questions, so we can continue the dialogue with the Environmental Protection Agency and take Ms. McCarthy up on her word. (Conrad) To see the entire presentation visit us at www.agaminkansas.com. Thank you for watching.

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