The American Farm Bureau Federation is trying to find an administrative or legislative solution to an Environmental Protection Agency policy that it says would dramatically increase the agency's footprint in farm country.
A guidance document now pending before the White House Budget Office would let field offices of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers decide whether a geographic feature is a water of the U.S. under the Clean Water Act. The agencies have sought new guidelines after previous methods had been put into question by two Supreme Court rulings.
Don Parrish, Farm Bureau Senior Director of Regulatory Relations, says if the guidance goes into effect it's going to be really difficult to conduct farming activities without being exposed to Clean Water Act regulations.
"It's bigger than 402 the MPDS pesticide issue because it is going to impact SPCC, it's going to impact water quality standards," Parrish said. "It's going to impact virtually every program in the clean water act and the cost is going to be horrendous and the potential for farmers to run headlong into this just skyrockets out the roof."
Farm Bureau is hoping it can convince OMB and the White House the guidance is not backed by science.
"They have cut every corner they can cut to try to hand this out politically to a constituency that wants very broad government involvement in regulating land use and regulating water on the landscape," Parrish said. "They are trying to finalize this and we are going to make an appeal."
Environmental groups say it's the other way around. Jon Devine, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, says EPA and the Corps are closing loopholes created under similar guidance issued by the Bush Administration, which he said was a policy decision that had focused very narrowly on individual segments of streams, making it harder to show any particular stream is significant to the overall watershed.