The National Pork Producers Council, along with other agriculture organizations, Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling on the federal Clean Water Act that could adversely affect hog farming operations.
NPPC is asking the high court to rule that ditches, drainage ways or wetlands with only indirect connections to "navigable" waters are not subject to the provisions of the Clean Water Act, which requires a permit to discharge anything into a "navigable" water.
NPPC filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a consolidated case â€“ Rapanos, et., al. v. United States of America and Carabell, et. al. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, et. al. â€“ involving two Michigan landowners who were denied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA the right to develop their property because it includes wetlands. Neither property owner's land abuts or drains directly into navigable waterways, which are broadly defined as "waters of the United States." The Corps of Engineers and EPA contend that the Clean Water Act prohibits without a permit discharges of pollutants, including agricultural waste, into waters with any "hydrologic connection" to navigable waters.
"The Clean Water Act cannot reasonably be interpreted to authorize the regulation of discharges to ditches, drainage ways or wetlands that are only indirectly connected to navigable waters," says Randy Spronk, chairman of NPPC's environmental policy committee and a hog farmer from Edgerton, Minn.
"If the interpretation supported by the Corps of Engineers and EPA is allowed to stand," Spronk says, "pork producers could be subject to Clean Water Act penalties if the manure they spread on their lands reaches a ditch."
In the brief, NPPC argues that "navigable waters" are properly limited to waters that are or could be navigable or that abut and are "inseparably bound up" with such navigable waters. NPPC was joined on the brief by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Dairy Producers of New Mexico, Kansas Livestock Association and Texas Cattle Feeders Association. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in June.