Tempers flared Thursday as House ag lawmakers accused USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service of being complicit in EPA’s planned expansion of its waters jurisdiction to the possible detriment of ag conservation. Voluntary - that’s what NRCS and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack call 56 farming and ranching conservation practices exempted from EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule. But Oregon Democrat Kurt Schrader disagreed and joined Republicans to charge NRCS is complicit with EPA and the Army Corps in the largest land grab ever - one that may discourage conservation practices and should be withdrawn. Follow NRCS standards or be fined. This exchange between Schrader and Natural Resources Under Secretary Robert Bonnie.
SCHRADER: You are trying to establish regulatory guidelines, standards by which a person farms and you have no business doing so.
BONNIE: I don’t believe we are trying to do that.
SCHRADER: That’s exactly what you’re doing. Only 56 ways. I see it. I read it wight here, man. Only 56 ways you can do things.
BONNIE: It’s voluntary.
SCHRADER: It is not voluntary. You keep saying that and that’s wrong. Nothing voluntary about getting your butt sued because you didn’t do one of these 56 practices.
And Schrader wasn’t finished.
SCHRADER: There are farmers and ranchers across this country that do not want to have this rule in any way, shape or form. Did you or did you not have a public hearing and comment period before the interpretive rule?
BONNIE: No we did not.
SCHRADER: No you did not! Any God fearing environmentalists would have your head. Heck, they’d be living in trees around your house for gosh sakes for not having that.
Schrader blasted the two-part USDA-EPA rule citing a Supreme Court opinion that Waters of the U.S. must be relatively permanent - standing or flowing - not occasional, intermittent or ephemeral flows.
That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network.