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Frustration over water rules a topic at Minnesota's Farmfest

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. -- Look for lengthy litigation in the courts over the Environmental Protection Agency's new Waters of the United States rules, some progress on country of origin labeling, and continued frustration over finding money for cons...

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Close to 600 exhibitors display their products Wednesday, Aug. 5 on the grounds of Farmfest 2015 on the Gilfillan Estate between Redwood Falls and Morgan. The annual event concludes on Thursday. View is looking south from atop Tebben Enterprises of Clara City exhibit. (Tom Cherveny | Forum News Service)

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. -- Look for lengthy litigation in the courts over the Environmental Protection Agency's new Waters of the United States rules, some progress on country of origin labeling, and continued frustration over finding money for conservation programs that were approved in the farm bill.

Those are among the messages that came from U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Tim Walz,D-Minn., along with two national farm group leaders, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, and Chandler Goule, vice president, National Farmers Union. They spoke Wednesday to an audience at Farmfest 2015 at the Gilfillan Estate south of Redwood Falls.

Both Peterson and Stallman described the 300 pages of rules known as the Waters of the United States as among the biggest potential threats facing agriculture going forward. They warn that it could force ranchers and farmers to obtain permits for some activities, such as applying fertilizers and chemicals. It will also open ranchers and farmers to more challenges for some practices in the courts, they warn.

Peterson said two Supreme Court rulings essentially forced the EPA to formulate a set of rules. The House opposes them, but he doesn't expect the Senate to approve a bill to repeal them. Even if it did, President Barack Obama would veto it, he said.

Peterson urges tying up the issue in the courts "until we get a new administration.'' He said he's met three times with EPA Director Gina McCarthy over the issue. He said she believes the EPA is doing the right thing for agriculture. The problem, he said, is that the president's people in the White House "just don't get it.'' Lawmakers from urban areas also don't understand the rural perspective on the issue, he said. "They just don't get what needs to be done to feed the world.''

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Now that the World Trade Organization has ruled against a mandatory country of origin labeling requirement, the Congressmen and farm group heads said they favor a voluntary approach.

Chandler Goule said his organization sees it as a "way to move forward'' with labeling that both consumers and most US producers favor.

Walz and Peterson expressed some concerns whether Congress would act soon enough to adopt an amendment that would call for voluntary labeling and meet WTO requirements. If Congress doesn't act in time, the WTO could impose penalties.

Related Topics: EVENTSAGRIBUSINESS
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