Legislators met with McCarthy to discuss WOTUSWASHINGTON — Republican members of the Senate Agriculture Committee finally got their meeting with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on July 22 and urged her to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. rule, but a McCarthy spokeswoman said issues with the rule can be handled in the agency’s comment process.
By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek
WASHINGTON — Republican members of the Senate Agriculture Committee finally got their meeting with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on July 22 and urged her to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. rule, but a McCarthy spokeswoman said issues with the rule can be handled in the agency’s comment process.
Judging by the tone of the news releases from key senators, McCarthy likely got an earful about the agency’s problems in rural America. The Republican senators sent McCarthy a letter in May asking that she meet with them.
“The Waters of the United States proposal and the agriculture interpretive rule are a source of uncertainty, anxiety and distrust for people in rural areas,” said Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who was one of the senators who asked her in May for a meeting.
“This is particularly true for states like Mississippi whose economies are built on agriculture production and where landowners want the peace of mind that what they are doing is not subject to ever more regulations,” said Cochran, who has sponsored legislative measures to stop or withdraw the WOTUS proposal.
But Cochran added, “I appreciate Administrator McCarthy agreeing to hear our concerns, and I hope the concerns we shared on behalf of our constituents will prompt the EPA to engage with agriculture organizations and to abandon or at least rethink some of the regulations it wants to impose.”
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said that in the meeting, he expressed frustration with the agency’s recent dismissal of concerns from Kansans regarding the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule.
Roberts took issue with the EPA’s recent campaign that called these concerns “myths.”
“Just two weeks ago, you were in Missouri to meet with producers regarding the proposed Waters of the United States regulation,” Roberts said. “Farmers and ranchers had hoped they would be able to persuade you to recognize the far-reaching and negative impacts of the proposed and interpretive rules, but the reports back have not been positive. To hear that their concerns were categorized as ‘silly’ or ‘ludicrous’ is truly frustrating.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said: “No question this administration has a poor track record with agricultural interests on any number of issues. I reiterated my concerns with the Waters of the U.S. rule and the unease I’m hearing from Iowans at my town meetings.
“I shared with the administrator a story I read in my local Farm Bureau Spokesman about how the federal government can’t even make a decision about whether a farmer needs a permit to put in conservation practices on his own land,” Grassley said.
“It’s hard to believe how the EPA thinks it can manage new rules when this unhelpful approach and general negative attitude toward agriculture seem to be standard protocol. I appreciate the administrator coming to the Hill to talk with us, but the meeting did little to alleviate my concerns that the agency isn’t listening to the people its rules will directly impact.”
Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman for McCarthy, said, “The administrator was happy to accept the invitation and appreciated the meeting. That’s why we have this comment period [on the Waters of the U.S. rule], which was extended until October, so we can hear directly from people about the proposed rule to protect our nation’s water, and we’ll continue to have those conversations.”
“We know that no one understands the importance of water quality better than the agriculture com- munity,” Purchia added. “They are the standard-bearer for stewardship of our nation’s land and water, while growing a farm economy that’s the envy of the world.
“The administrator believes and has said, we don’t have to sacrifice sensible environmental protections for a strong farm economy.
“If we can clear things up, we can clean things up. We can cut red tape, cut costs to taxpayers and cut down on a lot of frustration. And we’ll protect drinking water for 117 million people. We can protect people and property, without getting in the way of farmers and ranchers doing their jobs.
“We’ve done it before — from farm equipment emissions standards to safer pesticide use, we’ve put aside differences, put our trust in science and forged partnerships in the name of progress.”