Farm organizations keep water regulations within their scope – Wyoming Livestock Roundup
Water rights have been a hot topic in law for many years. In 1986, the idea of a federal water rule was first presented to the Supreme Court and was eventually passed into law. Almost 35 years of debate have resulted in countless different regulations on each element of water.
Scott Yager, chief environmental adviser for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), joined the Beltway Beef podcast on July 29 to talk about how the rule has progressed and what the future of water rights looks like.
Beginning in 2008, the Obama administration bypassed the legal system to create the United States Waters Rule (WOTUS). As of 2015, this rule effectively controlled all water supply systems in the United States.
Under WOTUS, anyone must get permission from the federal government to manage water.
Giving an overview of the extended rule, Yager shares, “If someone drains a storage pond, the storage pond is now a federal WOTUS and federal government permission is required.”
With very extensive regulations, the new rule at the time infringed on the water rights of producers. Over the years, American cattle ranchers have been very convinced of this rule.
“The rule is really about private property rights and a rancher’s ability to use their land in the most economically advantageous way,” Yager explains.
The NCBA and cattle ranchers have joined Congress to fight the expansive new rules on water.
“A lot of the features on the cattle country were going to be federally regulated where they had never been before,” says Yager. “So we opposed the rule in Congress. ”
When the Trump administration took office, the WOTUS rule of 2015 was repealed and replaced. A new water law, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, has been put in place.
Eager for the new legislation, Yager explains, “This rule effectively pushed back some of the federal scope and tried to provide clarity and exclusions for farmers and ranchers.”
Status of the water rule
The 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule is still in effect today.
“It’s still a law in force, which means that right now it’s the law we live under as a landowner, land user or agricultural producer,” says Yager.
Although still fairly recent, Trump’s water rule has made headway across the country. The rule removed part of the federal government from managing producers. However, there has been a backlash.
Yager, giving examples of some cases, shares: “There have been a number of rulings where cases have had the opportunity to override Trump’s navigable waters protection rule, but have decided not to. .
Environmentalists and lawmakers continue to fight for the use of water by cattle ranchers. Yet recent court victories mean that change is not in the near future.
“This effectively means that the Trump administration rule remains in place for the foreseeable future, if and when the Biden administration finalizes a policy change,” Yager said.
If the new administration decides to take action against the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, it will need to produce a final rule, and the process for that action takes a considerable amount of time.
Yager notes: “Producers can breathe a sigh of relief because nothing is changing right now – this is the status quo.”
While many believe the Trump administration has made great strides with water rules, the NCBA hopes to continue its efforts. Between new disputes, defense of the rule to protect navigable waters and collaboration with the Biden administration, the organization continues to fight for the rights of cattle farmers.
Focusing on their bigger task, Yager shares, “We will also continue to have conversations with the Biden administration.”
Sadly, some of the conversations taking place in the capital are not moving forward for cattle ranchers. The management of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is against the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
“The EPA is on a path to potentially repealing and replacing the Trump administration rule and working with members of Congress,” Yager said.
However, the NCBA is still fighting. They have taken steps to continue the 2020 water regulations.
Yager concludes by presenting the new NCBA plan, saying, “There are a number of members in Congress mentioning the WOTUS rule which will introduce new legislation. We are working with these members behind the scenes to move beef production in all the right directions. ”
Cattle ranchers are still fighting for rights to water management and downplaying government excesses. Yager encourages water users to contact their members of Congress to continue their efforts.
Savannah Peterson is an intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send your comments on this article to [email protected]