Capitol Report: Fighting for Rural Missouri

Dec 19, 2014

Last week the House made important progress on an issue I have been fighting since I got to Washington – protecting our farmers and landowners from intrusive federal regulations.

Since I have been in office, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have been scheming to take away our property rights. We know this from their actions. First, they proposed the National Blueway designation for the White River Watershed that would have created “buffer zones” keeping farmers from using their land. Then they proposed the incredibly damaging “Waters of the United States” rule that threatens to regulate every drop of water on our property. It could also require federal inspectors to approve how farmers and landowners use every collection of water on their property, no matter how small. Now we have their latest action, the dangerous “interpretive rule” regarding exemptions to Section 404 “dredge and fill permits.”

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires a permit before dredged or fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States, unless the activity is exempt from Section 404 regulation. Traditionally, agricultural activities have been exempt, but on March 25, 2014, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers released an “interpretive rule” that called into question the current exemption for farm ponds and irrigation ditches. Last week, included in the spending measure Congress passed, there was a directive to the EPA and the Corps requiring them to withdraw the “interpretive rule.” The old agricultural exemptions to Section 404 permit requirements will, for now, remain in force. Additionally, the bill included a provision preventing the Army Corps or the EPA from releasing a new “interpretive rule” in 2015.

When I talk to folks throughout the district, I consistently hear how important it is that we continue to fight this. If the agriculture exemption were no longer an option, obtaining the proper permit would be outrageously expensive and time consuming. One study found that obtaining a “nationwide” general permit under Section 404 took, on average, 313 days at a cost of $28,915. Even worse, obtaining an individual permit under Section 404 took, on average, 788 days at a cost of $271,000.

We must remain vigilant watching over the EPA and the Corps to ensure that they do not continue to erode property rights through executive rulemakings. We beat them on the Blueways system. We beat them on the “interpretive rule” that would have opened the door to regulate farm ponds and irrigation ditches. Now we must to continue to beat back the “Waters of the United States” rule that would be so destructive in potentially allowing EPA regulation of every accumulation of water on our land.