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See the map, believe in 'Ditch the rule'

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By Holly Martin

Seeing is believing. Or at least that’s what a group of agriculture organizations is hoping.

This week, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Grower’s Association, National Pork Producers Council and others announced a new tool to visualize the new Waters of the United States proposed rule.

The new interactive maps will illustrate the proposed changes to a rule that has agriculture groups touting the phrase, “Ditch the rule.” Under most interpretations of the rule, puddles, ponds, ditches and the like would now be under the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Over the past several weeks, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has been working very hard trying to convince producers the proposed changes would not mean regulation of ditches and puddles.

At a recent meeting in Kansas City, she said, “EPA is not regulating all activities in floodplains, or every puddle, dry wash or erosional feature.”

She has worked to assure farmers the intention of the law is to protect waters that are vital to Americans’ health, not impose regulations on farmers. However, the devil is in the details.

As Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback pointed out during an address at the 3i Show in July, a proposed law can look entirely different once it has gone through regulation. The former senator said, “In some cases, a bill that I had voted for or even proposed, I didn’t recognize once it was it was done with regulation because someone else was interpreting it down the line.”

McCarthy may very well have the intention to not regulate dry washes and puddles, but as time goes on, the next administrator might. If it’s on the books, there’s no telling what they can do.

That’s why the new mapping tool being released next week is so very important. The environmental engineering firm has mined existing data and maps and shown the extent of the stream features that could be regulated, according to Ashley McDonald, NCBA environmental counsel.

The most important data deals with ephemeral streams, or streams that carry water during a rainfall event or immediately after. Only 35 percent of those ephemeral streams are included in the estimate. This was done on purpose, McDonald said, so that the estimate would be a very conservative one. In addition, another layer overlays the 100-year FEMA flood map.

Not all states have been mapped, because the mapping process was expensive, but if a producer’s state is lucky enough to be included, producers can zoom in­—clear down to farm level. They should be able see some of the areas on their farm or ranch that could be jurisdictional.

As an example, Missouri would have approximately 80,000 more miles of streams that would be regulated. Add that to the perennial and intermittent stream mile count of around 104,000 miles for a total 184,000 regulated stream miles under the proposed rule.

That’s an 80% increase in regulated streams. We’re not just talking about few ditches here. Seeing the maps really is believing.

If you haven’t already, go to www.beefusa.org or www.ditchtherule.fb.org for background information on the new proposed regulations. Check out the maps. And then, even if it is only a few words, submit your comments on to EPA by Oct. 20.

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171, ext. 1806, or by email at hmartin@hpj.com.

Date: 8/18/2014



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