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Federal Court Temporarily Halts 'Waters' Implementation

STORY BY Neil Melancon

The Sixth Circuit Federal Court put a temporary halt on implementation of the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, a rule that allowed wide-sweeping regulation of bodies of water of any size including runoff from home lawns and farm fields. 

Many farmers and farm organizations have staunchly opposed the rule as it allowed regulators unprecedented authority to control water and land usage. The new rule eliminates the word “navigable” from its previous outline on how federal authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency, can regulate waters in the U.S. 

Ronnie Anderson, president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau, said that means any home that has water coming off the property line can subject to enforcement action.

“It would affect everybody with any kind of ditch or drainage, runoff from your yard, your farm, fields, wherever,” Anderson said. “It’s an over-the-top encroachment by the EPA and one of the most invasive regulations the EPA has ever moved forward.”

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau agreed and said he was relieved the court recognized the overreach, calling the rule ‘seriously flawed.’

“The judges expressed deep concerns over the basic legality of this rule,” Stallman said. “We’re not in the least surprised. This is the worst EPA order we have seen since the agency was established more than 40 years ago. The court clearly understood our arguments.”

Stallman recognized the stay was a temporary halt at best, but was confident upon further judicial review that the rule would be eliminated entirely. 

“Unfortunately, we also know stays don’t last forever, and cases like this almost always take years to win,” he said. “We are confident that the courts will strike down this rule. The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased the Sixth Circuit recognizes that this rule has serious flaws and cannot go forward until the courts have had an opportunity to understand its effect on farmers, ranchers and landowners of all kinds. We again ask the Senate to pass legislation to nullify this rule just as the House has already done.”

Anderson said it was not only a huge relief for his organization and the farmers they represent, but also personally gratifying as the rule would have affected his own cattle operation.

“I hope they stay holds and the EPA will probably appeal,” Anderson said. “It would affect me in my cow-calf operations and pasture land like I have where I feed hay in concentrated areas, with any kind of runoff from those fields. The way the concentrated animal industry is, whether you’re dealing with poultry, hogs or cattle, it becomes progressively more invasive with what you can do and how you can handle land usage. This ruling is just a good thing.”