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NCBA: Cattlemen speak out on Clean Water Act land grab

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act out of committee June 18 on a party-line vote, bringing the country one step closer to the largest federal land grab in our history.

The bill was amended at the markup by Senators Baucus, Klobuchar, and Boxer. The amendment is a smoke screen that allegedly takes care of agricultural concerns by exempting prior-converted croplands from federal jurisdiction. Cattle are generally not grazed on prior-converted croplands, so this amendment does nothing to mitigate the potential damage to livestock production from this legislation. The amendment is a diversion from the real issue, which is the removal of the word "navigable" from the definition of waters.

Under current law, the federal government has jurisdiction over "navigable waters of the United States." However, by removing the word "navigable" from the definition, the CWRA would expand federal regulatory control to unprecedented levels--essentially putting stock tanks, drainage ditches, any puddle or water feature found on family farms and ranches--potentially even ground water--under the regulatory strong-arm of the federal government.¬ 

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Public Lands Council strongly oppose this legislation, not only because it infringes on private property rights, but also because it limits the state partnerships and flexibility that have made the current Clean Water Act so successful.¬ 

Cattle producers across the country are asking the Senate to stop this legislation should it come up for a full Senate vote.

In a letter sent to the EPW Committee, Reid Blossom of Alabama writes, "This dangerous legislation would open a floodgate of unintended consequences as federal jurisdiction would be granted to monitor and regulate all bodies of water.¬ This means stock tanks, farm ponds, irrigation pools, and more would be subject to federal regulation and oversight.¬ Surely this is not the intention of the bill but it is also certain to be the outcome if its passage becomes a reality.

"As cattlemen, my family protects the water on our land.¬ We do so not because we're made to by the federal or state government but because we take pride in stewardship.¬ Just as we care for our animals, we care for our environment to see that it too is passed down in a pure state from generation to generation.¬ Additional oversight and regulation by the federal government will only serve to hinder this progression among America's farming and ranching families."

Heather Gessner of South Dakota explains, "As a cattleman in South Dakota, I value water quality for my livestock and my family and I feel that other bills that are currently in place effectively provide for the regulation and enforcement of public water ways that are utilized for human and animal consumption."

Jason McCann of Missouri writes, "As a cattleman in¬ Southwest Missouri, we are blessed with an average of 44 inches of rain per year.¬ And while this is great for growing grass, growing cattle and filling ponds, it could be a detriment if the mark up strikes the word navigable from the Clean Water statutes.

"You see, our part of the country has months where 6 inches of rain is not uncommon.¬ That much rain makes for many 'wet weather' creeks which only run in the wetter parts of the year.¬ If 'navigable' is removed, the small swale across my pasture which carries water to the creek will fall under the regulatory power of the EPA. The requisite permitting and usage restrictions would debilitate my ability to provide protein for a hungry America and a hungry world.

"The federal government has no business taking away my rights, or any cattlemen's private property rights by regulating non-navigable water.¬ Focus instead on enforcement of existing law.¬ Adding more legislation is not the solution."

Charles Hord of Tennessee writes, "Nothing in the bill addresses the fact that both the [Baucus-Klobuchar-Boxer] amendment and S. 787 as introduced would give federal regulators (and those who would use citizen suits to challenge an activity) the right to control private property. Moreover, by leaving the basic structure of S. 787 in place, Federal and state permitting programs will grind to a halt under the permitting burden created by these amendments to the Clean Water Act."¬ 

Tom Shipley of Iowa explains, "No amendments will solve the problem with this legislation--it would give federal regulators the right to control private property. It would never accomplish what private citizens are doing already at no cost to taxpayers. This act would actually hamper the government's ability to maintain clean waters as there is already a backlog of permit requests."



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