The Montana Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest general agricultural organization, has urged the Environmental Protection Association and Army Corps of Engineers to strongly consider the concerns of farmers and ranchers when rewriting the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. 

In their submitted comments, MFBF pointed out that the definition of WOTUS is extremely important to their members. 

“Our farmer and rancher members make their living on the land in all 56 counties, raising a variety of crops and livestock. Some have the benefit of irrigation, but others operate on completely dry land farms or ranches that rely on reservoirs to provide water to their livestock. The one thing these folks have in common is that they are all need water in order to raise the food and fiber that fuels this nation and much of the world,” noted MFBF President Hans McPherson in the comments. “Over the years, farmers and ranchers have taken great strides in preserving and conserving one of our most important resources; water.”

McPherson expressed dismay that the EPA and the Corps’ have announced intent to revise the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” by first repealing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) and second, refining the pre-2015 definition of WOTUS. 

“The Navigable Waters Protection Rule was a clear, defensible rule that appropriately balanced the objective, goals, and policies of the Clean Water Act. It provided our farmer and rancher members with the clean water and clear rules that we requested,” noted McPherson. “The Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) very clearly protects lakes, rivers and streams, the very areas intended for regulation by the Clean Water Act. Most ditches and areas where water sits temporarily are excluded, which is appropriate. This point is especially important in states like Montana because due to our unique and extreme climate, there are low spots in fields and pastures that only hold water for short periods of time, especially during the spring when snow is melting, or in the summer after a hard downpour of rain from a thunderstorm. These spots on the land that are wet for only short periods of time should never be considered jurisdictional.”

MFBF asked that the agencies recognize the burden overreaching regulations place on farmers and ranchers, to respect the statute and not write the term “navigable” out of Clean Water Act regulations. 

“We ask you to remember the importance of cooperative federalism and the fact that where federal regulation ends, state regulation begins,” said McPherson. “In Montana, we have two dedicated agencies working toward the protection of state waters and we believe that because they are close to the people and resources they regulate, they are well equipped to do so, and have a track record of taking their responsibility seriously.”