It was no surprise to anyone yesterday when President Obama vetoed a congressional resolution that would have killed the administration’s “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that redefines the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. But it was a huge disappoint to farmers and ranchers.
In his statement to congress, Obama defended his action, saying, “We must protect the waters that are vital for the health of our communities and the success of our businesses, agriculture, and energy development.”
The President added that he believes the resolution “seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and (would) deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water.”
Many farmers, ranchers and other landowners have opposed WOTUS from the start, believing that the restrictions will hurt rather than help them. Of even greater concern to the group is the fact that the rule gives the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers what the ag community feels is overreaching and unnecessary jurisdiction over farms and ranches.
Newly-elected American Farm Bureau Federation president, Zippy Duvall told Growing America that everyone involved in agriculture is confounded by the Obama decision, especially in light of wellspring of support against the rule at every level.
“The president’s veto is salt in the wounds of farmers and ranchers. We remain mystified as to why he continues to support this fatally flawed rule,” said Duvall. “Ninety-two members of Congress, 22 states, numerous cities and counties and dozens of industry groups have all stood up and said no to this rule. Courts have ordered the rule temporarily halted because of the harm it will cause. But, somehow, the president and the EPA just keep pushing. But we won’t stop either. We will not rest until this rule is gone.”
State officials are echoing Duvall’s sentiments. In Georgia, GFB president, Gerald Long, expressed his regret to Growing America. “The resolution received bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, so the president’s veto is disappointing,” Long said. “We had hoped for a legislative solution.”
Long’s associate, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner, Gary Black, voiced an even stronger commitment to the farmers and citizens of his state, saying, “This frontal assault on private property rights must stop and we will continue to work towards thwarting this blatant overreach of the federal government.”
Growing America also spoke to Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, who aired similar frustrations. “Rather than work with stakeholders,” Northey said, “the President’s veto prevents the opportunity to work together on a new rule we can all support.”
WOTUS extends to government agencies what the American Farm Bureau Federation has called “almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any spot where water collects on a farm, ranch or piece of land.”
To clarify, WOTUS redefines “navigable” bodies of water to include everything from dry streambeds to ditches, farm ponds and other occasionally or seasonally wet areas.
Despite efforts on Capital Hill, neither the Senate nor the House could find the necessary wording to write a veto-proof resolution. There’s no question that the veto will be viewed by Republicans as another example of the divisive atmosphere that exists between the parties.
The WOTUS rule became effective in August 2015, but legal challenges have kept it hold mode as the courts consider how to respond.
In another party line action, the White House blocked Republicans from using the fiscal 2016 so-called “omnibus spending bill,” essentially tying their hands should the courts lift the hold.
This article was written by Lynne Hayes and originally published by Growing Georgia on Jan. 21. Click here to view the full article on www.growinggeorgia.com →