BEEF Daily

8 Resources To Better Understand EPA’s Water Grab


EPA’s proposed rule expanding the federal authority of waters in the U.S. has the agricultural community concerned about the government’s reach on private property.

For months, we’ve been hearing about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to expand their federal authority over “waters of the U.S.” While the agencies contend that the proposed rule change is just a “clarification,” many landowners, including ranchers, are worried about the potential impact on property rights if oversight is extended beyond the traditional “navigable waters” definition. For instance, under the proposed rule, could that puddle of water alongside the ranch driveway soon fall under federal control?


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In a recent op-ed piece, Bob McCan, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president, asks the EPA if that puddle is really “navigable.”

McCan writes, “The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are taking public comments on a proposed regulation that would expand the federal government’s authority over waters; private property rights be damned. Many in the agricultural community have called this proposal the largest land grab in history, and I don’t think that is far off the mark. If landowners are required to get a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for spraying pesticides, applying manure, or simply grazing their cattle, there is no way to describe it but ‘land use planning.’ Once a responsibility of city and county governments, the federal agencies will now have the power to either give you a permit or not and thereby dictate what activities you can perform on your property.

“How did they do it? Through vague terms such as ‘neighboring,’ ill-defined terms like ‘floodplain,’ and expansive definitions such as ‘tributary.’ The agencies also leave most of these important key terms up to the ‘best professional judgment’ of the federal regulator. These legal terms give the regulatory agencies the loopholes they need to find your pond, puddle or ditch to be a ‘water of the U.S.’ and leave landowners with more confusion than ever before.”

McCan urges folks to tell EPA to ditch the rule. There is still time to comment on this rule, and I’ve rounded up eight resources and articles to read, so everyone can have a better understanding of exactly what this rule entails and how it might impact cattlemen.

1. BEEF Poll: Is EPA's Proposed Rule Good For Producers?

2. EPA Moves To Exert Control Over Virtually All U.S. Water

3. EPA Opens Comments On Waters Of The U.S. Language

4. A Closer Look At EPA Water Rule Proposal

5. Farm Groups Request More Time To Comment On EPA's Waters Rule

6. Cattleman Testifies On EPA's Waters Rule For House Small Business Committee

7. Beef Industry Is Focused On Fighting Off Regulatory Onslaught

8. Submit Your Comments On EPA’s Water Grab

What do you think about the proposed rule? Are you worried about how it might limit what you are able to do on your land? Is the regulatory environment in Washington, D.C., spinning out of control? What can we in the country do about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 10

on Jun 3, 2014

Good luck with that. Dog breeders commented in the 10s of thousands about the USDA big grab over owning and breeding dogs till we were blue in the face. And they did just as they pleased. However, there are more farmers and land owners than there are dog breeders, and they are better politically aligned than dog breeders. Maybe you can make a difference. I hope so, but considering this administration that rules with executive orders, it is what it is.

W.E. (not verified)
on Jun 3, 2014

Maggie, only one percent of Americans are farmers, compared to about 40 percent during the mid-20th century. Yet landowners have a far greater impact on where and how water flows and wind blows than anyone else. Livestock producers are a small percentage of today’s ag producers. Cattlemen generally want to be good stewards of our water resources. Well-managed ranches and farms are great protectors of water resources, because the plants on our land tend to be perennials. Most stockmen these days try to protect riparian zones around streams and waterways.
All climates are made up of millions of micro-climates. Water is local, of course, but no one owns it. It comes (or doesn’t come) from above, and belongs not only to us as farmers and landowners but to all of us, whether or not we deserve it or are good stewards of it. That being said, our government's next step should not be more regulations restricting water use. Broad-based and intensive education about how best to perpetuate the water cycle by conserving and collecting water in our soils, pastures, ranges, forests and streams would serve us all better
Established in 1935 in response to the widespread national disaster that was the Dust Bowl, the former Soil Conservation Service (now known as NRCS) is responsible for spreading the word about how best to manage land for conservation. "The mission of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is to provide national leadership in the conservation of soil, water, and related natural resources." Bulldozers and stone-lined water chutes are not natural conservation measures like the planting of trees and the maintenance of perennial waterways with continuous plant cover.
Mud covers low spots on many country roads this year in the upper South. New gullies and ditches provide tell-tale evidence of severe soil erosion, water pollution and flooding in newly planted corn and soybean fields. Greed is a major factor in this poor stewardship. Ignorance is another. Government subsidies would be better spent were they linked with efforts to conserve and protect soil and water resources.
It’s up to farmers and ranchers to ensure that their land does not lie bare over the winter, that every acre is covered in winter annuals, perennial grasses, legumes and forbs, trees, windbreaks and food-bearing plants. Plants that cover, protect and penetrate the soil with their roots year 'round help to perpetuate the water cycle, prevent run-off, reduce the disastrous effects of flooding and landslides, and help to insure against the ill effects of drought far better than summer annual fields with no winter cover.
Earl Butz in the 1970s advocated more government subsidies for grain production, with no incentive for cover crops. Agri-policy told farmers to plant grains "fencerow to fencerow." Farmers responded by bulldozing fencerows and planting them, too. Yet no government incentives exist to encourage investment in sustainable perennial food systems, including pastures, orchards, and silviculture. Spraying herbicide often kills cover crops planted to conserve soil in waterways. Spraying fungicides interferes with the ability of plants to take up water and nutrients from the soil. If all government subsidy payments ceased for grain fields without wind breaks and grass-lined waterways, and without cover crops of winter annuals like rye and wheat, we would see reduced destruction from erosion, droughts and floods.
Meanwhile, cattlemen rarely ask for or get government help, except in extreme disasters. Personal incentives have always worked far better for us than regulations. Good soil and water management is good for our cattle, and therefore good for us, and for the land, yours and mine.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jun 3, 2014

My bias is that we were first in the county to fence our cattle our of Meadow Creek and our pond and water them with cleaner water pumped from the pond into a system of troughs. We sold and donated our development rights and put the farm into Triangle Land Conservancy. BUT THIS is terrifying. Private property rights are the backbone of economic prosperity for everyone whether it is your city apartment, suburban home or our farm in the boondocks. Look out for this one!

Greg W (not verified)
on Jun 3, 2014

Ok, So I keep the cattle from grazing and watering in the riparian areas. Is the NRCS going to help me build fences, provide alternative watering devices and what are they going to do to help me offset the future costs. Like all well-intentioned liberals , the idea of cleaner water is a good idea but where is the plan for tactical implementation. The EPA fails to address unintended consequences of their action.

on Jun 3, 2014

It's about control. He who controls the water controls the land.

Anonymous354 (not verified)
on Jun 3, 2014

I'm curious how the EPA is justifying such a draconian rule. Is there some kind of epidemic I haven't heard about in the USA that's caused by dirty water? Are vast numbers of people dying because our water is unclean? Or does the EPA just think it would be nice to be able to force every landowner to grovel to it on our knees perpetually for permission to use our private land. Does EPA see itself as the true landowner while us lowly citizens keep paying property taxes? Sure sounds like regulatory serfdom to me!

Sharon Harston (not verified)
on Jun 4, 2014

You might provide a link or mailing address to sent our protest emails to. That might be more useful than preaching to the choir here.

Shar (not verified)
on Jun 4, 2014

We need a link to email the EPA.

on Jun 4, 2014

Click on the link below, fill out the form and then click on "submit"

Barbara Marquardt (not verified)
on Sep 22, 2014

We do not need the government or EPA regulating water on our farms and ranches. I am against this proposal!!

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What's BEEF Daily?

BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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