An American Farm Bureau official expects a long list of agriculture and non-agriculture opponents will line up to fight the Environmental Protection Agency's latest bid to expand its control of U.S. waters, whether it be in court or in Congress.
AFBF Regulatory Specialist Don Parrish says the issue with EPA's proposed guidance on which U.S. waters it can regulate is no longer just about pesticide restrictions, it's also about land use.
"This has such a broad impact on the regulated community," Parrish said. "On everybody, that's people who build roads, people that build homes, it's people who grow food. I have an idea there are going to be people standing in line to work together on this."
Parrish says under its regulatory guidance published this month EPA would have the power to regulate any place where water collects, including wetlands.
Parrish says a House-passed bill that is now before the Senate Agriculture Committee would ban EPA pesticide permitting in or near these waters, but would not resolve the broader conflicts.
"EPA is going to expand the universe of things that farmers need permits for under this process," Parrish said. "So it would fix the pesticide issue, the legislation pending before Chairman (Debbie) Stabenow, but it does not fix the other conflicts that farmers have."
Parrish calls the EPA guidance document a shadow regulation that lacks the safeguards of a formal rule, and effectively takes power away from landowners and gives it to EPA. He says AFBF is considering all its options after a 60-day comment period expires July 1 and EPA issues final guidance.
"Everything is on the table right now," Parrish said. "We're going to be looking at how we can involve members on the Hill and possibly putting some legislation out there to clarify what EPA's regulatory authority is. We're also going to be looking at protecting our ability to go to court."
Parrish says the courts are starting to understand that agencies like EPA use guidance as regulation and are forcing them to do a formal rulemaking. He says AFBF's banking that there's enough case law to show what EPA is trying to do now also warrants a formal rule or bill, and not an end-run around farmers and Congress.