SCOTUS, WOTUS, and the EPA

SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the US) has issued several conflicting rulings regarding WOTUS (the Waters of the US). These rulings have prompted the EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) to issue a new Proposed Rule defining the WOTUS and a new Interpretive Rule interpreting what they consider are “normal farming practices.”

The WOTUS are defined in the Clean Water Act that passed Congress in the early 70s. Since then most people have defined the “waters of the United States” as just that, the large bodies of water that are navigable and/or hold ecological importance to a large swath of land, and thereby are under federal jurisdiction. WOTUS is not defined in the Clean Water Act as any water that may eventually end up in a navigable water. To the best of our knowledge, the new terminology in the Proposed Rule issued by the EPA will basically make any land feature that holds water or allows water to flow in it part of WOTUS. The technical jargon is in high form in the Proposed Rule, but anyone with a dictionary can look up the terms and realize what they mean. Again, this Proposed Rule will essentially make any land feature that holds or allows water to flow as part of the “waters of the US” and enforceable under the Clean Water Act.

The Interpretive Rule is another animal in itself. The Interpretive Rule was issued by the EPA and essentially became law the day it was issued. Executive Branch officials issue interpretive rules to clarify how a law is supposed to be implemented. The EPA’s Interpretive Rule lays out the ground work for making the NRCS the Ag Police. NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) is a great organization and has a rich history of working hand-in-hand with Georgia agricultural producers to come up with the latest and greatest techniques and technologies to be implemented on farms. This Interpretive Rule, along with a Memorandum of Understanding between the EPA, NRCS, and the Army Corp of Engineers, gives new enforcement responsibilities to the NRCS, making them the Ag Police. We feel their new role as the Ag Police will strain the great relationship that has been built over the years between the NRCS and our great farmers in Georgia.

Now if you read the news or search for any of this online, you will see fiery rhetoric on both sides of the argument. The American Farm Bureau Federation has launched it’s “Ditch the Rule” campaign outlining its arguments against the Proposed and Interpretive Rules. We feel that the Farm Bureau has made very good arguments and are protecting the best interest of the farmer. The EPA fired back with its “Ditch the Myth” campaign as a rebuttal to the “Ditch the Rule.” First off, it concerns me that the EPA is USING TAX PAYER DOLLARS TO FIGHT AGAINST TAX PAYERS. Secondly, we welcome a conversation and discussion with the EPA regarding what they are saying about agricultural exemptions. Anyone who has ever been on a farm and understands the farm can read the proposed rule and see that either the EPA folks running the “Ditch the Myth” campaign have never been on a farm or haven’t actually read the Proposed Rule.

Luckily, the Georgia Cotton Commission, as well as many other ag groups, has been vocal and out front on this issue. We submitted a comment letter to the EPA regarding the Interpretive Rule. The letter can be found here. Also we were able to be featured in an article by the Atlanta Business Chronicle outlining our opposition to the Interpretive Rule. We will continue to voice our opposition to the Interpretive Rule making the NRCS the Ag Police and we look forward to digging through the Proposed Rule some more and commenting on that in the near future.

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Cotton Market Going Down, Down, Down, Down,

Yep, just like Bruce Springsteen the cotton market is going down, down, down, down. It’s crazy to think that just two months ago we were talking about 85 cents on the Dec 15 contract. This, I think, was due to too much rain in the Mid-South and Southeast and not enough rain in the Southwest and West growing regions of the US. Couple that with concerns that were coming from India and China regarding late planting, and what people were saying was a short carryover from last year, and you get higher prices.

Then, as noted before, the rains came down in Texas and it stopped raining in the Mid-South and Southeast. This basically dropped the market 10 cents. Then we learned that US producers planted more than “intended”, which wasn’t a shock to some of us given that the rough spring made some folks miss the corn planting window. (corn was already going to be down regardless of weather because the price wasn’t as attractive for GA growers)

The latest blow was today’s WASDE report. The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) raised the predictions by 1.5 million bales, raised domestic mill use (due to increase US capacity, a very good thing), and raised estimated exports (because of potentially large crop). These numbers were not very surprising but they really will not help the cotton market pick up any steam. As I write this the Dec 15 contract is now down, down, down, down to 68 cents, a far cry from the 85 cents in May.

July 4th and Agriculture

July the Fourth is much loved holiday in America. This is a day where we not only celebrate our independence as a nation, but also honor those men and women who helped gain our independence. Often most people only focus this praise on our military, and deserving so, but let us not forget the men and women who helped feed our growing nation in 1776 and those who continue to grow the food and fiber we need to survive today.

I recently finish David McCullough’s 1776 book. It is a great book and I’d recommend it to anyone. One thing that stood out to me, and is relevant to this post, is how the soldiers in 1776 were concerned to get back home that fall for harvest. McCullough elaborates throughout the book about the make up of the Continental army. It must be noted that the majority of the army soldiers were volunteers, many of them coming from farms. General Cornwallis (British) is famously quoted as describing the Continental Army as “farmers with pitchforks.”

Let us not forget this connection between American Independence and American Agriculture. Without farm families feeding a growing nation, and without many of these farmers taking up arms, July 4th may not be anything other than the day after July 3rd.