Kansas agricultural agencies are saying "we don't believe you" in no uncertain terms to the federal Environmental Protection Agency and USDA.
In separate messages, both EPA and USDA have insisted that no new oversight of farm ponds, ditches, drainage systems or agricultural waterways is planned as part of the proposed regulation defining Waters of the USA, which is now in a public comment period.
Speaking to agricultural journalists in Washington in April about the proposed rule, both EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack emphasized that the proposal contains no new regulation for agriculture. Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks reiterated that message in a column that appeared on Page 12 of the May Kansas Farmer.
Farm groups beg to differ. The groups that comprise the Kansas Agricultural Alliance are calling on the state's congressional delegation, Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt to join forces against the proposed rule that they say "would place additional burdens on farmers, ranchers and rural businesses" and "expand federal jurisdiction over ponds and ditches in Kansas."
In a letter sent out Thursday, they take issue with the broad definitions of the terms "tributary" and "adjacent waters" which they say would place virtually all waters and some dryland through the inclusion of floodplains and riparian areas under federal jurisdiction.
"Under the proposal, permits would be required for routine farming activities like the application of commercial fertilizer or spreading organic compost," said KAA President Dalton Henry, who is the government affairs specialist for Kansas Wheat.
The KAA letter says its analysis of the proposal suggests these additional requirements will prevent expansion, conservation practice implementation and other activities that provide benefits to Kansas and its agricultural community. The rule also would require the use of additional Kansas resources as EPA subjects waters traditionally regulated by the state to federal quality standards and total maximum daily load requirements.
"While the U.S. Supreme Court has not provided great clarity on the issue, it was clear on one thing: there is a limit to federal jurisdiction," said KLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Aaron Popelka, the president-elect of KAA. "Kansas does not need EPA and the Corps taking over the central tenets of state and local government."
KAA members consist of statewide farm, livestock, commodity, cooperative, agri-business and agri-service organizations. Its purpose is promote the general welfare of agriculture and rural communities within the State and Nation, with special emphasis upon legislative activities affecting agriculture, rural areas and cooperative services. KAA members include the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, Kansas Association of Ethanol Processors, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Cooperative Council, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Grain and Feed Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Pork Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association, Kansas Soybean Association, and Kansas Veterinary Medical Association.