Mixed views offered at Waters of the U.S. roundtable discussion

Stakeholders shared opposing viewpoints during a Midwest roundtable about implementing the latest Waters of the U.S. Rule. 

Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser says expanding the definitions of Waters of the U.S. might make it more difficult for farmers to keep improving water quality. He says, “To have a regulatory body that looks at the whole country and tries to make a rule that fits everyone, it just won’t work.  You must strike a balance between what’s best for the country and allowing for state input and local variation.”

Gaesser says farmers work to improve water quality without additional regulation. “Ten years ago, Iowa had ten thousand acres of cover crops.  Today, it’s over 1.7 million acres and counting.  Conservation tillage is taking place on over three-quarters of Iowa’s acreage.  Farmers are using precision agriculture technology as it helps us apply our fertilizer and our chemicals within one inch of where they’re needed at the right rate and the right time to minimize runoff.”

Illinois farmer Megan Dwyer, director of conservation and nutrient stewardship for the Illinois Corn Growers Association, says expanding the scope of working lands that fall under WOTUS doesn’t fix the problem. “Farmers need clarity and certainty in any rule, but more than that, we need practical and reasonable strategies to continue implementing conservation practices, preserving infrastructures, and ensuring true navigable waters are protected.”

Dwyer says 27 million private dollars were invested in conservation adoption in Illinois. She also says protecting waters is a shared responsibility between states and the federal government and this relationship and its boundaries need to be respected.  She encouraged EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to work collaboratively with farmers to address real, on-the-ground solutions.

One of many supporters of changes to the WOTUS rule is Linwood, Kansas farmer Zach Pistora, who is a small-scale vegetable farmer and Sierra Club lobbyist.  He wants the rule to help reduce e-coli and nutrient contamination in water.

Panelists did not agree on regulating part-time streams, and some want more federal and less state control of waterways. 

Additional roundtable discussions on implementing the WOTUS rule are scheduled, but the deadline has already passed for accepting additional hearing testimony.

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