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Farm advisory committee to EPA issues report on WOTUS, other topics

The Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee made recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency on several topics, such as Waters of the U.S., pesticides and food waste.

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WASHINGTON — A farm advisory to the federal Environmental Protection Agency has filed a report making recommendations to the agency on several topics, such as Waters of the U.S., pesticides and food waste.

The 32-member Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee developed the 46-page report out of meetings during 2020 and 2021.

On Waters of the U.S., the report recommended that EPA "Define WOTUS using clear terms that are easy to interpret and apply. The most important aspect of any definition of WOTUS is it must be easily interpreted by farmers, ranchers, and leaders of rural communities and interpreted with clear lines of jurisdiction. It is necessary that a new WOTUS rule avoid vague terminology that both landowners and regulators cannot apply without engaging in burdensome analyses."

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are currently taking comment as the agencies work on a revised definition of Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, which is key to enforcing the federal Clean Water Act.

Another recommendation on WOTUS is that it "Retain exclusions that are critical to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities and recognized regional differences. Waters that do not fit into any of the jurisdictional categories within the new WOTUS rule should not be jurisdictional. There is, however, potential for misinterpretation and misapplication, so well-defined, clear exclusions are necessary for certainty and accurate and consistent implementation."

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The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on Friday, Jan. 14, issued a statement backing the WOTUS recommendations on the report that was released Wed. Jan. 12.

Scott Yager, NCBA chief environmental counsel said the report is significant because of the diversity of the committee that made the recommendations, with people representing, ag and rural watersheds but also tribal and local governments. "It's a real cross-section of our country," Yager said in an interview. He said those diverse voices "helps amplify the message" that the ag sector is sending on a clear and limited definition for WOTUS.

Recommendations on other topics include:

Pesticides and crop protection:

  • Implement a multi-media campaign to educate the public about the framework EPA follows as part of its decision-making process to regulate pesticides.
  • Implement a standard set of pesticide label information for a consumer audience with regard to household pesticides.
  • Developing an advisory board of farmers and ranchers on the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act registration processes.
  • Establish a discussion group modeled after the Animal Agriculture Discussion Group that would facilitate dialogue between EPA and farmers and ranchers with regard to crop protection tools.

Food loss and waste:

  • EPA should offer guidance on creating waste management plans that call for separating and diverting food waste from landfills, as it does for other materials.
  • EPA should promote and encourage the Food and Drug Administration to adopt food safety guidance for food donation similar to the draft guidance recently published by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ecosystems management: Seek a collaborative agreement with other agencies such as the USDA and FDA the to develop an ecosystems management system.

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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