Texas Agriculture November 18, 2016 : Page 11

Agriculture, business groups ask court to vacate water rule By Jessica Domel News Editor Texas Farm Bureau, Matagorda County Farm Bureau and more than a dozen other agricultural, municipal and business organizations jointly sent a brief to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in early November urging the court to vacate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS). In the 100-page court brief, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and other organizations out-lined reasons the court should strike down the rule, which essentially gives EPA the authority to control what landowners do on property that may only occasionally hold water. “The toughest part was finding a way to condense all the reasons why this rule violates the law. EPA and the Corps of Engineers did so much wrong that it’s really hard to distill it down to just under 100 pages,” Ellen Steen, AFBF general counsel, said in an in-terview with AFBF’s Newsline . By claiming regulatory author-ity, AFBF officials believe EPA may choose to issue or not issue permits for otherwise every day activities like plowing, clearing land and applying fertilizer—essentially deciding who can farm and how. “The way the WOTUS rule is writ-ten, EPA could apply federal regula-tions intended to protect rivers, lakes, and streams to much smaller water features, such as ditches, farm ponds and even drainage areas in fields,” Jay Bragg, TFB associate director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities, said. “These regulations would limit land use activities and are accom-panied with stiff fines that can total $37,500 per day.” EPA claims the rule clarifies regu-latory authority, allowing the agency and the Corps to protect streams and wetlands and their impact on water quality. The brief filed by the organizations follows a year of litigation over which the court had jurisdiction to hear chal-lenges to the expansive and unlawful rule that affects landowners across the nation. According to AFBF, the brief ex-plains how EPA flouted important procedural safeguards to ensure a fair and thoughtful rulemaking process. “They violated the processes that are required in issuing new regula-tions by ignoring public comment, ridiculing public comments during the rulemaking process, withholding key documents until after the public comment period had ended and then, on top of that, they flew right over the bounds of their limits under the Clean Water Act and what’s required under the constitution for a regulation like this,” Steen said. EPA’s tactics, according to the brief, included withholding key documents until after the public comment period had closed, ignoring and ridiculing critical public comments and issuing illegal “covert propaganda” to gener-ate superficial public support for the rule. “EPA set out to achieve a predeter-mined outcome and then manipulated the public notice-and-comment pro-cess to achieve that outcome,” Steen said. “It treated the rulemaking pro-cess like a game to be won instead of a deliberative process for developing lawful and reasonable regulations.” The rule also violates the limits of the Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and the Constitution, according to the brief. It explains how the rule re-lies on vague definitions to allow the EPA and Corps to regulate land fea-tures that are not “navigable waters.” The brief also explains WOTUS does not provide fair notice to the public of what land features are cov-ered under WOTUS and therefore fall under EPA jurisdiction. It also al-lows regulators to reach any outcome they please. “They wrote the word navigable out of the Clean Water Act and they wrote the regulation in such vague terms that it allows bureaucrats in Washington to do just about what-ever they want without providing the public with fair notice of what land features are going to be regulated. So, there’s a lot that’s wrong with this rule,” Steen said. Additional court briefs like the one recently filed will follow, accord-ing to Steen. She said judges could hear arguments in the case in March 2017. “It’s almost anybody’s guess how long it would take for them to hear argument and then reach a decision. It could be that we would have a deci-sion from the court by sometime next summer, or it could go longer than that,” Steen said. The filing by AFBF, TFB and other agricultural and business organiza-tions comes on the heels of a report from the House Committee on Over-sight and Government Reform. The committee studied the pro-cess that led to WOTUS’ signing on May 27, 2015. It went into effect that August. The report says the road to WO-TUS’ signing was “rife with legal shortcuts, predetermined conclusions and politically-driven timelines.” EPA and the Corps are currently unable to enforce WOTUS after a stay was issued in October 2015. TFB remains involved in the case on behalf of its 519,000 member-families. West Texas farmer lands in national advocacy spotlight By Julie Tomascik Associate Editor A West Texas cotton farmer is part of a national team to help bridge the gap between agriculture and consum-ers who are hungry for more informa-tion about their food. Jeremy Brown, who farms on the South Plains, is one of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s (USFRA) new Faces of Farming and Ranching, fol-lowing a nationwide search and on-line voting process. “I’m humbled by this opportunity to represent the hardworking people who provide a good, safe food and fiber source across Amer-ica,” Brown said. He, along with four other farmers and ranchers, are sharing the story of agriculture on a na-tional stage through consumer-facing public appearances, media interviews and events. They promote the passion behind agriculture and share the drive for sustainability and technology on today’s farms and ranches. “I think it’s im-portant to have a face to the people who are actually growing our food and fiber,” Brown, a fourth generation farmer, said. “Hav-ing those healthy dialogues with con-sumers, answering their questions and really explaining to them what we’re doing on our farms is something that needs to continue as more and more people move away from the farm.” The five farmers and ranchers se-lected represent diverse sectors of ag-riculture. From poultry and cattle to dairy, sheep and row crops, each of the class members has different farming methods. But they all share a passion for agriculture. Brown, his wife Sara and three kids grow cotton, organic cotton, wheat, grain sorghum, rye, peanuts and sesame. He also uses cover crops, minimum tillage and no-till in order to help build organic matter on his farm. N OVEMBER 18 , 2016 11

West Texas Farmer Lands in National Advocacy Spotlight

Julie Tomascik

A West Texas cotton farmer is part of a national team to help bridge the gap between agriculture and consumers who are hungry for more information about their food.

Jeremy Brown, who farms on the South Plains, is one of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s (USFRA) new Faces of Farming and Ranching, following a nationwide search and online voting process.

“I’m humbled by this opportunity to represent the hardworking people who provide a good, safe food and fiber source across America,” Brown said.

He, along with four other farmers and ranchers, are sharing the story of agriculture on a national stage through consumer-facing public appearances, media interviews and events. They promote the passion behind agriculture and share the drive for sustainability and technology on today’s farms and ranches.

“I think it’s important to have a face to the people who are actually growing our food and fiber,” Brown, a fourth generation farmer, said. “Having those healthy dialogues with consumers, answering their questions and really explaining to them what we’re doing on our farms is something that needs to continue as more and more people move away from the farm.”

The five farmers and ranchers selected represent diverse sectors of agriculture. From poultry and cattle to dairy, sheep and row crops, each of the class members has different farming methods. But they all share a passion for agriculture.

Brown, his wife Sara and three kids grow cotton, organic cotton, wheat, grain sorghum, rye, peanuts and sesame. He also uses cover crops, minimum tillage and no-till in order to help build organic matter on his farm.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/West+Texas+Farmer+Lands+in+National+Advocacy+Spotlight/2641486/358629/article.html.

Agriculture, Business Groups Ask Court to Vacate Water Rule

Jessica Domel

Texas Farm Bureau, Matagorda County Farm Bureau and more than a dozen other agricultural, municipal and business organizations jointly sent a brief to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in early November urging the court to vacate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS).

In the 100-page court brief, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and other organizations outlined reasons the court should strike down the rule, which essentially gives EPA the authority to control what landowners do on property that may only occasionally hold water.

“The toughest part was finding a way to condense all the reasons why this rule violates the law. EPA and the Corps of Engineers did so much wrong that it’s really hard to distill it down to just under 100 pages,” Ellen Steen, AFBF general counsel, said in an interview with AFBF’s Newsline.

By claiming regulatory authority, AFBF officials believe EPA may choose to issue or not issue permits for otherwise every day activities like plowing, clearing land and applying fertilizer—essentially deciding who can farm and how.

“The way the WOTUS rule is written, EPA could apply federal regulations intended to protect rivers, lakes, and streams to much smaller water features, such as ditches, farm ponds and even drainage areas in fields,” Jay Bragg, TFB associate director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities, said. “These regulations would limit land use activities and are accompanied with stiff fines that can total $37,500 per day.”

EPA claims the rule clarifies regulatory authority, allowing the agency and the Corps to protect streams and wetlands and their impact on water quality.

The brief filed by the organizations follows a year of litigation over which the court had jurisdiction to hear challenges to the expansive and unlawful rule that affects landowners across the nation.

According to AFBF, the brief explains how EPA flouted important procedural safeguards to ensure a fair and thoughtful rulemaking process.

“They violated the processes that are required in issuing new regulations by ignoring public comment, ridiculing public comments during the rulemaking process, withholding key documents until after the public comment period had ended and then, on top of that, they flew right over the bounds of their limits under the Clean Water Act and what’s required under the constitution for a regulation like this,” Steen said.

EPA’s tactics, according to the brief, included withholding key documents until after the public comment period had closed, ignoring and ridiculing critical public comments and issuing illegal “covert propaganda” to generate superficial public support for the rule.

“EPA set out to achieve a predetermined outcome and then manipulated the public notice-and-comment process to achieve that outcome,” Steen said. “It treated the rulemaking process like a game to be won instead of a deliberative process for developing lawful and reasonable regulations.”

The rule also violates the limits of the Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and the Constitution, according to the brief. It explains how the rule relies on vague definitions to allow the EPA and Corps to regulate land features that are not “navigable waters.”

The brief also explains WOTUS does not provide fair notice to the public of what land features are covered under WOTUS and therefore fall under EPA jurisdiction. It also allows regulators to reach any outcome they please.

“They wrote the word navigable out of the Clean Water Act and they wrote the regulation in such vague terms that it allows bureaucrats in Washington to do just about whatever they want without providing the public with fair notice of what land features are going to be regulated. So, there’s a lot that’s wrong with this rule,” Steen said.

Additional court briefs like the one recently filed will follow, according to Steen. She said judges could hear arguments in the case in March 2017.

“It’s almost anybody’s guess how long it would take for them to hear argument and then reach a decision. It could be that we would have a decision from the court by sometime next summer, or it could go longer than that,” Steen said.

The filing by AFBF, TFB and other agricultural and business organizations comes on the heels of a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The committee studied the process that led to WOTUS’ signing on May 27, 2015. It went into effect that August.

The report says the road to WOTUS’ signing was “rife with legal shortcuts, predetermined conclusions and politically-driven timelines.”

EPA and the Corps are currently unable to enforce WOTUS after a stay was issued in October 2015.

TFB remains involved in the case on behalf of its 519,000 member-families.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Agriculture%2C+Business+Groups+Ask+Court+to+Vacate+Water+Rule/2641487/358629/article.html.

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