Time to ditch the rule before EPA ditches you

By Mike Barnett

It looks like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to flood agriculture into submission with its revisions of the Clean Water Act.

This map, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and updated for EPA, shows locations and flow patterns of waterways in Texas.

At first glance, it looks innocent enough. Where it gets problematic is how it could be used.

U.S. Representative Lamar Smith, a Texan and Republican chairman of the House Science Committee, said last week that the maps—which show the locations of streams, marshes and reservoirs, along with larger lakes and rivers across Texas and the nation—signal the wide scope of control the Environmental Protection Agency could wield under its “Waters of the U.S.” revisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

“These maps show the EPA’s plan: to control a huge amount of private property rights across the country. Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA’s desire to minimize the importance of these maps,” Smith wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

EPA’s revisions, farmers and ranchers say, would give EPA jurisdiction over temporary waterways like seasonal streams. Smith says possession of these maps by the regulatory agency is highly suspicious.

EPA says not to worry.

“Let us be clear—these maps have nothing to do with EPA’s proposed rule or any other regulatory purpose,” said EPA spokesperson Liz Purchia. She noted they were initially created years ago and subsequently updated in 2013—right after EPA announced its proposed revisions for the CWA.


“Trust me. I’m from the EPA and I’m here to help.”

As you can see, the EPA map of Texas is color-coded to depict everything from canals and ditches to reservoirs to marshes. It also depicts streams—permanent as well as those that flow only part of the year. Can you find your farm or ranch on the map? If you live in the white part, you are okay, and probably very, very dry. If not, watch out.

If EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposal passes, EPA could be telling you when you can build a fence, why you can’t use pesticides and how to plow your field

The potential for regulatory mischief is huge. The possibility for abuse of private property rights is very real.

Join me.

Once again, let’s tell EPA it’s time to “Ditch the Rule.”

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

15 Responses to “Time to ditch the rule before EPA ditches you”

  1. Mischa Popoff says:

    I’ve got a better idea. Let’s ditch the EPA.

  2. My farmland is in the white area, right over the Ogalalla Aquifer, so no Mr Barnett, I am not “safe”.

    This usurpation of individual, private property rights is every Texan’s fight, but until non-rural property owners become concerned, those of us who own the majority of acres at risk are a voiceless minority.

    If you doubt me, research the methods the High Plains Underground Water District commie proletariat used to crush my state patented ownership rights to control the water under my property. They spent years formulating groups of quasi “Stakeholders” who never paid my real estate taxes, never made a land payment, but whom they deemed fit to have an equal vote on how I can use MY water, forevermore.

    Joe Strauss and his kabal of pseudo Republicans are presiding over the demise of our unique Texas individualism… and what do we do about it? Nothing!

    In the current political climate, “tyranny of the majority” rules… We are headed strait to Hellifornai.

  3. Erik McCowan says:

    First, the map is too incredibly small to view, thus depriving readers of accurate information, though the description of the map by the author is too dubious to be taken seriously. We need more information.

    Second, you are using conspiracy to discredit the EPA’s statement. They make a point, and your response is basically “yeah right.” The (small) map shows water…ok… It also shows land, the border of Texas, I assume there’s an ocean and air on the surface. Why don’t you just assume that the EPA is going to take that from landowners aw well? It follows the same direction of your other baseless prophecy.

    In the end, you do not provide facts to back up your conspiracy theory, so you are doing a huge disservice to whatever readers you may have.

    • Erik – It is apparent from this and other posts that you like a lot of government regulation, ownership etc. The farmers and ranchers who will have to make this work under penalty of going to jail and heavy fines do not share your enthusiasm.

      Facts? We have a map developed by government agencies and a comment from a United States Congressman. Hard to see how either would not be considered factual.

      As I have patiently explained before to you and others…this is not a newspaper. This is a blog…opinion by definition. Mike is not obligated to present EPAs case. Your opinion has been posted as an opposing view. Ms. McCarthy herself is welcome to post here as well. The opinion of Texas farmers and ranchers is also valid. Mike articulated it very well.

      • David Kaiser says:

        Gene Hall

        I was in the construction business for 47 years and I saw first hand how Texas and the EPA cleaned up Texas steams of some of the worst stuff you can imagine. There were prophylactics and feminine hygiene items stuck to tree branches and weeds–everywhere; washing machines; oil drums–on and on!

        But back in the 70s & 80s we didn’t start crying about how the EPA was “over-reaching”; we all worked together and got it cleaned up.

        I’ll tell you what-I’ll take the EPA over the Texas Farm Bureau anytime. Every time I hear a farm organization start crying about over-reach and “where’s the nexus”, I can’t help but think of the commercial on TV that tells the farmer to spell cow: c-o-w-e-i-e-i-o. Like,WRONG-Mr farmer!

        Let me explain so all can understand. First of all-no person has the privacy or right to break a law-period. If a farmer breaks a EPA rule on his private property-my understanding is “private property” doesn’t forgive the act.

        If a farmer drains his tractor oil on the ground, and it rains the oil will float to a nearby ditch, as that ditch fills it will flow into larger ditches or tributaries, then into rivers and on to the sea–all the way polluting more and more water. THAT’S THE NEXUS-UNDERSTAND?

        So to the Farm Bureau, instead of leading the farmers and ranchers, in my opinion, in a responsible way, go ahead a cry for them and rowel them up against the EPA. Further more I’m tired of hearing farm organizations bad-mouth the government this and that, and regulations, etc. If the Farm Bureau wants limited government-then turn down all the farm & ranch subsidies! Turn them down-it ought to run across your grain to accept them–LOL–not in a million years! How many years has the “public” had to hear of milk subsidies, payments for not growing, now in 2011-2014 drought payments to ranchers if the drought hurt their cattle business and Sen Grassley’s tariff against Brazil imports to protect the corn-for-ethanol farmers–driving up the corn prices/cattle feed prices and grocery store meat prices.

        I’m thankful for living in America and the fantastic job our government is doing. I’m one of the silent majorities and I’m getting tired of handouts-to everyone!

        To your point about regulation-where would we be today without the EPA and their regulation, and this whole time we relied on the Texas Farm Bureau to clean up our waterways? Where would we be?

        And to cap it off-I raise registered black Brangus cattle and I drain my tractor oil and transmission oil into plastic collection containers and take it to a quick-lube place for them to drain into their tanks; I don’t drain it onto the ground.

        FARMERS-stop crying.

        This is my opinion.

        • Mr. Kaiser –

          I am curious…just which agricultural practice calls for the distribution of “used condoms and feminine hygiene items?” Thanks for that image, by the way. That comment, so sarcastically made, is both 100% accurate and 100% irrelevant. We’ve seen a lot of the straw man argument here lately. If you can’t argue with what we’ve posted, then argue something else. Cute, but pointless.

          Of course no one can break the law on public or private property. But – we can object to the creation of a NEW law – imposed by unelected bureaucrats – that just might make it impossible to operate a farm or ranch. You seem to be leaping to an accusation of breaking a law that does not yet exist.

          We are grateful to you for helping prove the point. EPA won all the big point-source environmental battles decades ago. The problem is, they are still fighting the war they’ve already won over non-point source issues that are not a problem.

          Now, there is no question that the cost benefit analysis of this rule does not add up. Many farmers are worried that it’s not possible to comply with the new rule. EPA will be able to decide what land is farmed and what is not with the imposition of a few five figure per day fines – or more likely – just stalling on a permit for critical, normal and safe agricultural practices. They are pouring billions into witch hunts without any hope of a return on investment.

          The US Supreme Court has said “no” to this rule. So has Congress. In typical big government fashion, the answer is, “What the hell? Let’s just do it anyway” by bureaucratic decree. EPA says, “We’ll laughably regulate, as “navigable” waters, ditches that are not even wet most of the time.”

          Regulations have a cost, and we are going to feel this one. That’s the thing….you create a giant, bloated and inefficient agency and fund it lavishly…what will it do? It will regulate…aggressively….long past the point where there is any real need to do so. The war is won. Why not let farmers and small business produce, generate jobs and get the credit for doing so? No, much better to cripple them with regulatory costs that will not improve the environment by any measurable amount.

          Meanwhile, in the forty years since the time you are still stuck in, agriculture is using less of everything. Fertilizer and all chemical use continues to decline. This topic has exactly zero to do with anything that happened 40 years ago. This discussion is about the proposed EPA rule of 2014. Why not argue about THAT? It was, after all, the subject of the blog. The rest of this is irrelevant.

          I don’t know anyone who drains his tractor oil onto the ground. If that happens, EPA already has all the authority it needs to deal with that, and most of situations you’ve described. Or – are you still suggesting we make 2014 policy on the basis of what might have happened in the 1970s?

          • Mischa Popoff says:

            An excellent retort to David Kaiser’s statist rant.

            But I’m curious Gene, is this the type of person you’re willing to compromise with? Or do you want to beat him?

          • I suppose we could compromise, but he does not seem to leave much room. Maybe on another issue.

        • David Kaiser says:

          Are you trying to be cute? Please try to make sense-where in my statement did I say anything about any “….agricultural practice calls for the distribution of “used condoms and feminine hygiene items?” Your reply was totally uncalled for and out-of-place.

          Let me explain so everyone follows if they want to: very much within the context of the Farm Bureau fight against the EPA, the EPA [your boogeyman] cleaned up the waters throughout Texas and thank God. Our waters were filthy to the point everything was dumped into the streams and rivers-prophylactics [my term] and feminine hygiene items everywhere. Just as I stated-to let the people of Texas who would otherwise have no idea of that state of disarray–that’s where we were ten or more years ago and where we are now. I built many a sewage and water treatment plant, funded by the EPA in partnership with Texas, in my lifetime and saw the change from the filthiest and most nasty waters in Texas-all because of the EPA.

          Again-in regard to the NEXUS-a dry ditch? A ditch may be dry until it fills with water and then carries it’s content downstream.

          It’s very obvious Gene Hall gets a little testy if I and others don’t agree with him or the TFB, or jump on their bandwagon and start condemning the EPA. You actually made my point, it was the EPA over your “40 years” reference who had us cut back on the use of fertilizers and the chemical use of herbicides and pesticides.

          In the context of the current 2014 debate, I’ll restate: I’ll put my money on our Federal Government and the EPA everyday of the year!

          • Testy? I’m not the one typing in all caps. Mike’s blog is about the proposed EPA rule and it’s impact on agriculture, which you seem to say is justified because of point-source pollution issues that we’re addressed years ago. Agriculture by the EPA’s book is a non point-source issue. That makes virtually everything you cited as evidence irrelevant and off topic. Also, as I stated, EPA already has authority to deal with everything you mentioned and anyone who drains oil onto the ground. No sir, EPA had very little to do with the reduction in inputs…that distinction belongs to the market and the continued drive for efficiency. You clearly support the rule, but you’ve not offered any evidence for it.

          • Mischa Popoff says:

            Anyone who believes the feds and the EPA care about Texas farmers and ranchers should go live in Washington DC.

  4. Erik McCowan says:

    Gene, thanks for reading. It is also apparent from your posts that you like to give half-truths to serious stories without proper reporting. Yes, this is a blog, an opinion, so maybe you need to state that up front so that readers know this is an editorial, NOT fact.

    And since you bring up facts, your congressman, Lamar Smith, is an ultra-conservative politician with millions in campaign contributions and has been comfortably in office for years. Do you think he really has farmers and ranchers in his best interest? His district has a lot of “city” in it. And his comment is editorial and is only a view, NOT policy or fact. Did you miss this? A view is not a fact, as you state above.

    I am a farmer and rancher, and I enjoy the facts, as I am sure they do as well. I do not appreciate fear-mongering.

    As an article that is distributed to a wide base, surely you know your influence. And since you are a business, I am sure that you know that influencing your readers can enhance your bottom line. After witnessing your turn into partisan politics, which no doubt bolsters that bottom line, I have cancelled my fledgling membership and have advised same from my family. Scare tactics are an insult to tough farmers and ranchers like myself, but your bloggers do them very well.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      We are truly sorry to lose you Erik. As Gene said, this is a blog. It’s an exchange of ideas. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    • Mischa Popoff says:

      Dear Erik:

      Cancelling your membership just because you can’t stand the thought of Mike Barnett questioning the EPA’s tactics is nothing short of juvenile.

      If you had a leg to stand on you’d keep your membership and convince others of your point of view. Instead, you’re running scared like a jackrabbit.

      You sure you’re a rancher?

  5. Mike Bryant says:

    The EPA has developed into a gargantuan agency with little congressional oversight. The larger it gets and the more power it assumes the more it is to be feared and fought. Fear mongering, no. Just another example of too much government. The government that governs best is the government that governs least.

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