Farmers may fear the Natural Resources Conservation Service and turn away from agency-sponsored conservation measures thanks to a new interpretive rule on Clean Water Act (CWA) ag exemptions, a Pennsylvania cattle rancher told a House Ag subcommittee last week.
The House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry met to discuss the farmer and rancher impacts of the interpretive rule, which accompanied the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Waters of the U.S. rule, released in March.
The interpretive rule – which took effect immediately but is also up for public comment until July 7 – explains how the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule would impact CWA exemptions for agricultural activities. Its implementation brings together the EPA, USDA and Army Corps of Engineers.
Rancher Andy Fabin, who represented the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association during the hearing, said this situation could turn USDA's NRCS into a sort of regulatory body, policing what conservation practices meet the NRCS guidelines and therefore do not require CWA permitting. Fabin fears that this situation could mean slower adoption of conservation practices and less willingness to collaborate with NRCS.
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