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WOTUS Rule Disappoints Dairy, NMPF Calls for Action

January 5, 2023

Yet another iteration of federal rulemaking guiding regulation of Waters of the U.S., released Dec. 30, drew criticism from NMPF and numerous agricultural groups for adding unnecessary confusion for farmers.

“NMPF is disappointed that once again dairy farmers, who every day strive to be leaders in environmental stewardship, may need to live under a WOTUS rule that is cumbersome, unclear and overly complicated,” NMPF said in a statement released Jan. 3. Because the EPA’s most recent iteration fails to resolve what is now a 50-year struggle to define what constitutes a water body subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act, our members will face continued uncertainty as they attempt to comprehend and comply with unclear regulations.

NMPF, a supporter of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule that had previously guided WOTUS policy, noted that the new rule was not a complete retreat from that regulation. “EPA’s listed exemptions at least try to address some of agriculture’s concerns over lack of clarity,” NMPF said in the statement. “Even so, EPA is reintroducing considerable ambiguity in this version of the rule as it attempts to determine what is a ‘Water of the US’ as seen in the treatment of ditches, ephemeral streams and groundwater, all of which were largely categorically out under the NWPR. NMPF fully anticipates continued litigation as a result of this rule.

NMPF called for congressional action to break the back-and-forth that has created confusion and brought added costs to dairy producers.

“It’s now clear that four successive administrations of both political parties have been unable to resolve this matter in a way that satisfies the broad range of stakeholders and provides long-term regulatory certainty which is badly needed. “Depending on the outcome of the Sackett case this spring, it may be time for Congress to step in in a bipartisan manner to provide clarity regarding which bodies of water are under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.”