National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling hosted nearly a dozen staffers from the Environmental Protection Agency for a tour and information session regarding conservation and the Waters of the U.S. proposal Friday at his farm in southern Maryland.
The visit was part of a series of meetings between NCGA and the EPA connected to the proposed WOTUS rule. Bowling was joined by NCGA CEO Chris Novak and Vice President of Public Policy Jon Doggett.
"We wanted to give them a view of what actually happens on the farm," Bowling said. "Our members have a lot of uncertainty and concerns with the proposed rules. We are working with the EPA to ensure that the final proposal provides clarity and addresses those concerns."
During the tour, EPA staff were shown areas that NCGA says could be regulated under the proposal as currently written, including drainage ditches, grass waters that are dry most of the year, and low spots on fields where water pools.
Bowling said it is important to work with the EPA and give farmers a voice during the rule-making process. "We want to have a seat at the table when these rules are being developed," he said.
Farm groups have been concerned that the rule could increase EPA and Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act since the proposal was released in early spring.
Several hearings, webinars and discussions have been held between the EPA and affected stakeholders in effort to clear up some confusion surrounding the proposal, though some farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau, are still uncertain about the proposal's impacts on farmers.
The group last week released a legal analysis of a question-and-answer sheet provided by the EPA on the rule, suggesting that several of the EPA's answers to frequently asked questions are not completely reliable.
Despite the concern, an EPA panel tasked with reviewing the EPA's draft report on water connectivity, which informs the Waters of the U.S. proposal, found that the report is "thorough and technically accurate." This allows the EPA to move forward with the proposal, though it must first move through a public comment period that closes Nov. 14.
Regardless of concern from some groups, the NCGA said EPA staffers described Friday's tour and ensuing conversation as educational and productive.
"I know they learned something, as did we," Bowling said. According to NCGA, Bowling also discussed farming advancements' impacts on conservation and the environment.
"Ninety-nine percent of my farm friends do what I do," Bowling said. "We have no problems with erosion or ditch damage. We've become more efficient and are doing more with less."
News source: NCGA