Growing in Agriculture: Tell the feds states do it best

Farm Forum

Water is vital to all South Dakotans, especially those working in agriculture. Together with our South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), South Dakota farm and ranch families have a long history of managing the water we use, yet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) seem to think they know better. These federal agencies recently proposed a rule,, defining certain waters known as “waters of the United States” which are subject to protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The rule significantly expands EPA and the Corps’ reach in an area the states should have primary authority – water use and regulation. These agencies should abandon this proposed rule and instead work with state agencies to craft a more appropriate definition.

EPA and the Corps could have authority over water bodies not currently considered “waters of the United States,” such as wetlands, intermittent and ephemeral streams, some types of man-made ditches, subsurface water, and even areas that are dry most of the time. The proposed rule could subject landowners to significant restrictions and permitting requirements for farming activities in or around these designated areas, as well as substantial liability for CWA violations.

The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently released maps obtained from the EPA that show locations and flow patterns of many of the nation’s waterways. To view, please visit and search for “EPA maps”. The EPA claims that the proposed rule will not result in an expansion of its jurisdiction, yet a glance at the maps released for South Dakota show the vast majority of the state is covered in wetlands and intermittent and ephemeral streams – all water features included in the proposed definition. While the EPA insists that the maps are not for use in identifying waters falling under CWA jurisdiction as “waters of the United States”, the confusion caused by the maps is yet another reason the agencies should abandon the proposed rule.

At the recent National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual conference, I joined agriculture secretaries, commissioners, and directors from other states in unanimously calling on the EPA and the Corps to withdraw the proposed rule. The action item we passed also urges these agencies to collaborate with state departments of agriculture and other stakeholders on the appropriate scope of federal CWA jurisdiction.

We have worked with the DENR and other state departments to prepare official comments on this proposed rule. You also have an opportunity to weigh in. It is critical that you stand up for your farm or ranch by submitting comments. Most importantly, please describe how this rule will directly impact your operation. To submit comments, visit and search for “Clean Water Act, Definitions: Waters of the United States”. Deadline to submit comments is Friday, November 14, 2014.

I’m proud of our farmers and ranchers who are committed to being good stewards of our water. Join me in sending the EPA and the Corps a clear message that the people of South Dakota know more about protecting our water than any agency in Washington, D.C.