Beef farmers contest 'vague' water management law

By Chloe Ryan

- Last updated on GMT

The law will put huge burdens on landowners and farmers to monitor water features and dry features, say the NCBA's lawyers
The law will put huge burdens on landowners and farmers to monitor water features and dry features, say the NCBA's lawyers

Related tags: United states environmental protection agency, Ncba, Beef, Livestock

Cattlemen are hotly contesting a rule that will give the US Environmental Protection Agency authority over all waterways in the US is set to come into effect on August 28.

The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule is being disputed by industry bodies including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which claims the rule is federal overreach that will burden landowners, farmers, ranchers and local governments by requiring additional permits for projects and uses affecting tributaries, wetlands, ponds, lakes and even ditches.  

As well as opposition from industry, 29 states have launched legal bids to have the proposed WOTUS rule thrown out, claiming it infringes on their sovereignty. However, so far no judge has made a decision on whether to pass an injunction preventing the rule coming into force.

In an audio interview posted this week on the NCBA’s website, Scott Yager, NCBA Environmental Counsel said that while the aims of WOTUS were noble, the wording was so unclear it would put huge burdens on landowners and farmers to maintain and monitor not only all water features on their land, but dry areas that could become water courses during floods.

'Stop this rule'

“The WOTUS rule remains a top priority for our producers and for all landowners nationwide,”​ said Philip Ellis, NCBA president and Wyoming cattleman in a separate statement. “While cattlemen have long asked for greater clarity around the Clean Water Act, this rule does the opposite, rendering jurisdictional determinations so vague and subjective that our members cannot possibly make a determination as to what basic ranching activities will subject them to criminal and civil penalties under the Clean Water Act. We remain committed to working with the administration, Congress and through the courts to stop this rule.”

Numerous legal bids to scrap the rule could still stop it coming into effect, but Yager advised cattle farmers to prepare. “Take a close look at your land, at all water features and dry features that could transmit water,​ he said. “Talk to your state cattlemen’s association and look at their environmental service programmes that can consult with you.”

Related topics: Meat

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