Representative Jim Oberstar’s America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act goes too far in its attempt to define and regulate America’s waters, according the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union board of directors. “We support protecting our water supply,” said RMFU President Kent Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer. “We understand the need that Representative Oberstar is trying to address, but we are worried that the definition of ‘body of water’ is too broad in his legislation.”
If the bill passes, it will include mudflats, sandflats, “intermittent streams,” and wetlands in the EPA’s oversight. “These aren’t scientific terms,” Peppler pointed out. “A cattle pond on my rangeland with some cattails around it could be called a ‘wetland,’ and suddenly it’s under the jurisdiction of the EPA. We need clear definitions to have legislation that’s clear.”
The difficulty, in the minds of many farmers, is that the definitions, the legislation, and the rules are written by people who don’t actually live on rural property or practice agriculture. “That’s why we get legislation like that in California that says your fields aren’t safe if animals can get in,” Peppler added. “Whoever wrote that rule must have never even had a garden in their own back yard.”
The board called on Congress to look closely at the implications of the bill for agriculture.
RMFU has a record of supporting stewardship of natural resources, but its primary mission is protecting family farming and ranching as a way of life and a source of America’s food and fuel security. “We all balance environmental concerns against our personal needs, whether you’re a mechanic in Denver or a rancher in Delta. When regulations don’t impact us directly, it’s easy to forget that we are in this together. When regulations drive up prices, we all suffer, but the producers most of all.”