Apr 30 2015
Senator Leads Push to Improve Certainty for ND Farmers & Ranchers and Create a Workable Federal Regulation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today helped introduce bipartisan legislation – which she has been working on for several months -- to provide certainty for farmers, ranchers, and small businesses across North Dakota by requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to redo its proposed Waters of the U.S. rule.
Heitkamp’s bill would send the Waters of the U.S. rule back to the EPA and require the agency to consult directly with states and those affected by the proposed rule, like local farmers and ranchers. Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, has fought to make sure farmers, ranchers, and small businesses throughout North Dakota know how they can use their land and what waters would be regulated by EPA.
Last fall, Heitkamp urged EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw its proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, as she has heard from North Dakotans that it would create substantial uncertainty for the state’s farmers and ranchers who, because of the rule, don’t know if they need to get certain permits for wetlands on their land. The bipartisan legislation, which Heitkamp helped introduce today with U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), James Inhofe (R-OK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), aims to fix a burdensome federal regulation by updating and clarifying these rules based on the concerns from North Dakotans.
“There isn’t a regulation that has caused more concern for North Dakota farmers and ranchers than the Waters of the U.S. rule. We need to change that, which is why our bipartisan bill would give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to do their jobs and determine how to use their own land,” said Heitkamp. “North Dakota is in the middle of an historic wet cycle, impacting farmers across our state with flooding and pooling water. That’s why I’ve been working for several months on this bill to make sure that EPA takes these unique conditions into account and proposes a rule to regulate water that actually considers what is happening on farmers’ land. Our bipartisan bill would address these concerns and help provide clarity to producers in North Dakota and across the country without confusing federal regulations standing in their way.”
The Federal Water Quality Protection Act would require EPA to propose a new Waters of the U.S. rule that works better for farmers and communities across the country, taking into consideration local concerns and water conditions. The bill would not affect protections currently in place for existing waters regulated by the Clean Water Act.
Last month, Heitkamp pressed USDA to clarify how it makes wetland determinations on farmers’ land in North Dakota and across the country, and to improve certainty for farmers. Two weeks later, Heitkamp continued this effort and stressed the uncertainty of the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. Building on her push to make sure conservation compliance works for North Dakota growers, Heitkamp brought USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie to North Dakota last August. During his visit, Bonnie heard firsthand how uncertainty surrounding wetland regulations creates challenges for farmers throughout the state.
As ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, Heitkamp and Subcommittee Chair James Lankford (R-OK) recently launched their bipartisan #CutRedTape Initiative to gather stories from American families and small businesses across the country to help determine how the federal government can be more effective and efficient.