President Obama vetoed Senate Joint Resolution 22 which would have nullified a rule issued by EPA and the Department of the Army to “clarify the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act.”
The text in quotation marks is the way the president phrased it in his veto message. Farm organizations have called the rule, also known as Waters of the U.S. or WOTUS, a “blatant” attempt to impose EPA control of land use in rural areas.
Few issues have attracted as much attention as WOTUS. Ag groups have spent countless hours and resources fighting its implementation and – judging from the comments that followed the president’s action – are prepared to spend millions of dollars more.
Zippy Duvall, newly-elected president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, issued a statement noting the opposition to the rule in Congress, state and local governments and industry. “But, somehow, the president and the EPA just keep pushing. But we won’t stop either. We will not rest until this rule is gone.”
The Senate voted 53-44 and the House, 253-166, to support S.J.Res. 22. It’s unlikely congressional leaders can generate an override of the veto because of the number of Democrats opposing the resolution. Numerous lawsuits have been filed attempting to block implementation, and those will continue.
At the heart of the issue are detractors’ claims the rule extends the waters of the U.S. classification from the traditional “navigable” to all waters. Their concern is EPA will now try to regulate every drainage ditch, prairie pothole and stock tank in the country.
But that argument puts agriculture on a slippery slope, no pun intended, when it comes to the court of public opinion, where agriculture has been hammered on issues ranging from GMOs to pollinator health to dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.
The City of Des Moines, Iowa, has filed a lawsuit against three neighboring counties, attempting to recoup the money it spends removing nitrates from its water supply. That something like that could happen in a predominantly agricultural state like Iowa speaks volumes.
Maybe it’s time agriculture learns to get out in front instead of having to fight continuous rear guard actions on such issues.