Farmers are 100 percent supportive of ensuring clean water, including through appropriate regulation, but the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule had no resemblance to responsible oversight. Instead, it was an overreach of massive proportions. That’s why its defeat is a big win for agriculture and for America, and why the American Farm Bureau is proud to have led the effort to hit the reset button.
Across the Farm Bureau family, our grassroots showed up and led the charge in making our voices heard. We called on virtually every member of Congress, offered testimony, engaged the Administration in frank dialogue and led court challenges. This win shows what we can achieve through the full impact of Farm Bureau’s firepower, from expert policy analysis and legal advocacy to communication and grassroots engagement. It shows the great things we can accomplish when we speak with one voice to defend what is right and good for our farms, rural communities and our country.
Today, we celebrate an important step toward restoring the rule of law and common sense to regulation. We have a system of rules and regulations that govern this country, making our communities safer, protecting the quality of our food and protecting our environment, all while ensuring our constitutional rights are preserved. It’s our job as Americans to be sure that our government by the people remains for the people. So when a regulation or rule comes along that ignores the rule of law and gives any agency power beyond what Congress and the Constitution allow, then it’s time for all of us to speak up. That’s just what you have done, and this win is yours.
I have always said that any farmer or rancher should be able to look out on the land—without having to invite a posse of lawyers and consultants—and know what is, and what isn’t, a regulated waterway. That wasn’t possible under the 2015 rule because the rule wasn’t about water. It was a federal land grab, pure and simple. Courts across the country recognized this, and now the EPA and the Corps under the President’s direction have righted this wrong. Some will accuse us of being anti-regulation. That’s unfair and untrue. Farmers and ranchers know better than almost anyone the importance of keeping our food safe and protecting our natural resources. We all deserve clean water and clear rules.
Farm Bureau is hopeful that farmers soon will have the common-sense rules we have been calling for, as we look to the new Clean Water Rule the Administration is finalizing. It’s been a breath of fresh air working with EPA Administrator Wheeler as he has walked the talk when it comes to giving farmers a seat at the table. Under his leadership, EPA has invited farmers and ranchers and business owners to give their input, and the agency has listened. From all we’ve seen in the published draft, the new Clean Water Rule promises to work for agriculture as well as it does for environmental protection. The new rule recognizes the conservation work we are doing and provides the clarity we need to keep producing America’s food.
Now, more than ever, farmers and ranchers should take pride in our conservation story. We are growing more food with fewer resources and reducing our environmental footprint. Let’s continue to share that story, starting with our neighbors and communities. Farming is work grounded in trust across generations and communities—trust that we will do right by the land and do what’s best for our families and neighbors. I am proud of the work you all are doing every day to make your farms and ranches more sustainable. Today’s victory is a testament to your perseverance and dedication to protecting the land, air and water we all enjoy now and for generations to come.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.