field that ponded
HARD-FOUGHT VICTORY: EPA’s repeal of the Waters of the U.S. rule was welcome news to many farmers and farm groups who fought valiantly against it. Would this field that ponded this spring have been a “water of the U.S.”? The problem was that no one knew for sure.

Sometimes there is a hill worth dying on!

EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule was a battle worth engaging in.

My late father taught me a valuable lesson. Be sure a disagreement or conflict is worth fighting for before you lob that first volley. Some causes are worth “dying for,” as they say, and some aren’t. Many would-be squabbles are over things that just aren’t worth risking “dying on that battlefield.”

Yet once in a great while there is a cause worth the risk — one that is so critical to how you live that it’s worth the pain and agony of engaging, even if it becomes a tough fight. The long-suffering fight by farmers and farm groups against EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule qualifies. If farmers wanted to maintain property rights and stay in control of their land, it was imperative that they stand up and speak out against the rule.

The problem with the rule was that it left “waters of the U.S.” up to interpretation. If EPA decided a low spot that filled with water a couple of times this spring was a “water of the U.S.,” could it take control of that water? No one seemed to know. What Indiana Farm Bureau and many other farm groups did know was that it was too risky to find out the answer the hard way. The rule needed to be stopped, and they fought hard to make that happen.

Split views
Despite a good fight, EPA issued the rule in 2015. Congress at the time narrowly lacked the votes to essentially nullify it. Then the rule became tied up in court.

Enter President Donald Trump and the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. On June 27, the president announced the rule would be withdrawn.

Wesley Spurlock, president of the National Corn Growers Association from Texas, commented: “The goal of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the integrity of the nation’s waters. The 2015 rule moved us further away from that goal. Repealing it is an important first step toward providing farmers the certainty and clarity we have long desired.”

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr., said:  “We’re pleased to see the EPA today formally withdraw the Waters of the U.S. rule, which was proposed more than two years ago and was vehemently opposed by so many groups, including the Illinois Farm Bureau.

“As written, the rule created confusion and regulatory liability for farmers and landowners, while providing both the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers unlimited authority to regulate at their discretion. It was really nothing but a land grab.”

Of course, those on the left were quick to respond. Robert Schreiber made these comments in an email distributed by Friends of the Earth. “Trump wants to eliminate as many of our environmental protections as he can — and make it all but impossible for the EPA to enforce the ones he can’t get rid of. The result? Big Polluters could destroy our planet with reckless abandon.”

On the flip side, there were comments from the far right that revoking the rule wasn’t enough. James Burling, litigation director for the Pacific Legal Foundation, commented that it was only a good first step. He contends that EPA and other government agencies need to refocus how they consider what waters fall under their jurisdiction.

Obviously, opinions are all over the board. One thing is certain. It’s a very key issue for the future — a “hill worth fighting for.” And at least for now, farmers and landowners have retaken the hill.

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