« Karl's Comments

Farm Friendly

by Jeremy Lawrence

You may wonder why theres no question mark with the heading Farm Friendly, as I now refer to the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA has not, after all, been perceived as friendly, to farms. (or any other entity) But Living in Rural Michigan is what this commentary is all about, and theres a lot of farming associated with life in rural Michigan. EPA has been at the forefront of the Agricultural mind for a long time, for one reason or another. Environmentalists often embrace conservation, at least in concept - - at least in theory. But when it comes to farming and ranching, which is hand-in-glove with conservation, there comes what seems to be a disengagement.

For example - - what motivated EPA to seek to redefine the Clean Water Act? Agriculture, it seemed to me, was pretty well on board with that, as it made reference to Navigable waterways. There was a lot of fuss from time to time, about livestock wading in rivers, breaking down the banks, fouling the water and so on. Farm field fertilizer runoff caught a lot of flak, too, although it took the blame for a lot of lawn fertilizer that came from other than agriculture.

Well, anyway, here comes the reinterpretation of that part of the Clean Water Act that refers to navigable waters, large creeks that lead to rivers, down which barges float to seaports. Now were not talking about navigable. Were now talking about surface waters. Laura Campbell, manager of the agricultural ecology department at Michigan Farm Bureau says the rule, as it now stands, would permit EPA to regulate practically any surface water feature as though it were a protected wetland, to include drainage ditches, low spots in fields that collect water during heavy rains, and even temporary streams that carry water only in the spring, as in snowmelt runoff. Its the kind of thing that could require farmers to obtain federal permits to carry out some of the most basic, routine activities, such as cropland preparation, nutrient application, and pest control.

Its not a done deal - - not yet. In fact, the new deadline for comment before the final ruling, has been extended four months - - until October 20th.

Now why, you might ask yourself, since EPA was about to rewrite the rule without so much as a nod from the President, or a nod of acknowledgment to Congress, would EPA just decide to extend the comment period. Maybe because Administrator Gina McCarthy has realized the concept is ridiculous? Not likely; her deputy administrator says the proposed new rule is only a clarification of existing language, and would have no major effect on agriculture.

Anyway, the extra four months does give farmers - - and anybody else who wants to comment, that extra time

Michigan Farm Bureau members can comment through the Legislative Action Center; non-members can comment on the EPA website.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. (accompanying picture is a screen capture from YouTube)