Cattlemen Applaud Introduction of Strong Bipartisan Bill in U.S. Senate

Ten Republicans, Ten Democrats Join Together As Initial Co-Sponsors on Fischer-Donnelly FARM Act

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) applauded the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that would prevent farms, ranches, and other agricultural operations from having to report livestock manure data under CERCLA, the law that governs toxic Superfund sites. The bipartisan bill was introduced earlier this week with the support of 10 Republican co-sponsors and 10 Democratic cosponsors.

“There’s not a lot of truly bipartisan legislation in Washington these days, but one thing that pretty much everybody can agree on is that a responsibly-run cattle ranch isn’t a toxic Superfund site,” said fifth-generation California rancher and NCBA President Kevin Kester. “On behalf of cattle producers across America, I want to sincerely thank the Senators from both parties who worked together to introduce this bipartisan bill. I also want to encourage other Senators to join the effort and pass this bill as quickly as possible.”

Initial bipartisan cosponsors of Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (or, FARM Act) are U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was enacted to provide for cleanup of the worst industrial chemical toxic waste dumps and spills, such as oil spills and chemical tank explosions. CERCLA was never intended to govern agricultural operations, for whom emissions from livestock are a part of everyday life.

To make this clear, in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule to clarify that farms were exempt from CERCLA reporting and small farms, in particular, were exempt from EPCRA reporting, given that low-level livestock emissions are not the kind of “releases” that Congress intended to manage with these laws.

Upon being sued in 2009 by environmental advocacy groups, the Obama Administration’s EPA defended the exemption in court on the grounds that CERCLA and EPCRA do not explicitly exempt farms because Congress never believed that agriculture would be covered under these statutes, so a specific statutory exemption was not viewed to be necessary. Unfortunately, in April 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the EPA’s 2008 exemption, putting nearly 200,000 farms and ranches under the regulatory reporting authorities enshrined in CERCLA and EPCRA. The new reporting requirements could have gone into effect on Jan. 22, but the Court delayed implementation of the requirements until May 1, 2018, which gives Congress time to act.

NCBA in January kicked off a media campaign on the issue with an online video featuring the group’s Chief Environmental Counsel, Scott Yager. In the video, Yager donned a yellow hazmat suit and explained the issue at an actual toxic Superfund site near Fredericksburg, Virginia. He then shows the contrast between the contaminated Superfund site and a cattle farm in nearby Louisa County, Virginia, that would likely have to comply with the new reporting requirements.

“This is most certainly not a toxic Superfund site,” Yager explained from the Virginia cow pasture. “Unfortunately, a recent court decision may force cattle producers and other agricultural operations to report a bunch of information about their cow poop to the federal government under the Superfund laws that were only meant to deal with toxic waste. That is unless Congress acts soon.”

Source: NCBA

WOTUS Delayed for Two Years

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army (Army) have finalized a rule adding an applicability date to the 2015 Clean Water Rule (the 2015 Rule). This rule provides clarity and certainty about which definition of “waters of the United States” is applicable nationwide in response to judicial actions that could result in confusion. The new applicability date will be two years after today’s action is published in the Federal Register, during which time both agencies will continue the process of reconsidering the 2015 Rule.

“Today, EPA is taking action to reduce confusion and provide certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “The 2015 WOTUS rule developed by the Obama administration will not be applicable for the next two years, while we work through the process of providing long-term regulatory certainty across all 50 states about what waters are subject to federal regulation.”

“We are committed to transparency as we execute the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program. The Army and EPA proposed this rule to provide the regulated public clarity and predictability during the rule making process,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Ryan Fisher.

The 2015 Rule, which redefined the scope of where the Clean Water Act applies, had an effective date of August 28, 2015. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s nationwide stay halted implementation of the 2015 Rule. But last week the Supreme Court determined that the U.S. Courts of Appeals do not have original jurisdiction to review these challenges and, therefore, the Sixth Circuit lacked authority to issue a stay. Given uncertainty about litigation in multiple district courts over the 2015 Rule, this action provides much needed certainty and clarity to the regulated community during the ongoing regulatory process.

Today’s final rule is separate from the two-step process the agencies are currently taking to reconsider the 2015 Rule. The public comment period for the Step 1 rule proposing to rescind the 2015 Rule closed in September 2017, and those comments are currently under review by the agencies. EPA and the Army are also in the process of reviewing input from state, local, and tribal governments and other stakeholders as they work to develop a proposed Step 2 rule that would revise the definition of “waters of the United States.”

 Background

On February 28, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13778, “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” As EO 13778 stated, it is in the national interest to ensure that the nation’s navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while simultaneously promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and respecting the roles of both Congress and States under the Constitution.

Additional information on this final rule: www.epa.gov/wotus-rule

Up to $3 M in funding now available for locally-focused environmental education grants

EPA has recently announced that up to $3 million in funding for locally-focused environmental education grants will be available under the 2018 EE Local Grant Program.  EPA will award three to four grants in each of EPA’s ten Regions, for no less than $50,000 and no more than $100,000 each, for a total of 30-35 grants nationwide. Proposals are due March 15, 2018. The Requests for Proposals will be posted on www.grants.gov later this week.

In addition to other environmental topics, the 2018 EE Local Grant Program includes support for projects that reflect the intersection of environmental issues and agricultural best-practices, conservation of natural resources, food waste management, and natural disaster preparedness.

Funded projects will increase public awareness of those topics and help participants to develop the skills needed to make informed decisions. A Request for Proposals (also called a Solicitation Notice) containing details will be issued by each of the ten EPA Regions.

“By recognizing these locally-based learning and awareness opportunities, the Environmental Protection Agency is taking both a local and national leadership role in promoting sound agricultural conservation practices, environmental disaster preparedness, adequate food waste management and other important environmental best-practices,” said Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Environmental education starts locally in our own backyards, classrooms and in the fields of farmers who work the land directly, and I’m proud to play a role in enhancing such learning opportunities.”

Through this grant program, EPA intends to provide financial support for projects that design, demonstrate; and/or disseminate environmental education practices, methods, or techniques, as described in this notice, that will serve to increase environmental and conservation literacy, and encourage behavior that will benefit the environment in the local community/ies in which they are located.

Since 1992, EPA has distributed between $2 million and $3.5 million in annual grant funding under this program, supporting more than 3700 grants.

Proposals are due by March 15, 2018. The full solicitation notices will be posted later this week at www.grants.gov and athttp://www.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-grant-solicitation-notice.

Find background on the EE Grants Program and resources for applicants at http://www.epa.gov/education/environmental-education-ee-grants.

New WPS Requirements for pesticide applicators

Montana pesticide applicators and owners of agricultural establishments should pay special attention to new worker protection standard requirements as of January 2018. The US EPA published a revised Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) in 2015 to better protect agricultural workers from pesticide exposure. Revisions went into effect January 2, 2017; however, Montana pesticide applicators are reminded of a few revisions that recently went into effect January 1, 2018. The following paragraphs define the new 2018 requirements while providing additional WPS resources.

Most of the revised WPS requirements became effective on January 2, 2017. Three requirements went into effect January 2, 2018:

  • Pesticide safety training must cover the expanded WPS content.
  • Pesticide safety information (posters) must meet the revised standards. Updated posters

    can be reviewed and ordered on the PERC website.

  • Handlers must suspend applications if workers or other people are in the application exclusion zone (AEZ). The AEZ refers to the area surrounding the pesticide application equipment that must be void of all persons other than appropriately trained and equipped handlers during pesticide applications. See details at the MSU PEP WPS website.

    For general information on WPS, navigate to the EPA website or view the MSU PEP website. Complete WPS manuals titled “How to Comply with the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides: What Owners and Employers Need to Know” can be downloaded from the MSU PEP website or can be purchased from MSU Extension Distribution for $3. A manual for trainers titled: “National Worker Protection Standard: A Manual for Trainers of Agricultural Workers and Pesticide Handlers” is also available on the MSU PEP website.

    Contact Amy Bowser, MSU Pesticide Education Technician (406-994-5178;
    amy.bowser@montana.edu) regarding WPS questions or Cecil Tharp, MSU Pesticide Education Specialist (406-994-5067; ctharp@montana.edu) with other pesticide education questions.

    Links

    EPA WPS Website:

    https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/agricultural-worker-protection-standard-wps MSU PEP WPS Website: http://www.pesticides.montana.edu/wps/index.html
    PERC Website: http://pesticideresources.org/wps/cp.html

EPA Requests Comments on Extending the Timeline for Pesticide Applicator Rule

from Cecil Tharp (MSU Pesticide Education Specialist):

Pesticide applicators should be aware of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pesticide certification and training rule finalized on December 12th, 2016 and published in the Federal Register on January 4. 2017. The implementation of the final rule was extended to May 22nd, 2017; however the EPA is now proposing to extend the implementation of the final rule another 12 months to allow states and stakeholders more time to prepare. EPA has a comment period that expires May 19th to consider extending the final rule another 12 months.

Comments on this rule can be submitted to docket #EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0183
via: https://www.regulations.gov/ on or before May 19, 2017 after the Federal Register notice publishes. See the EPA press release for more details of this comment period.

Details Regarding the EPA Final Rule on Pesticide Certification and Training Rule

The proposed rule applies to those that apply restricted use pesticides (RUP) across the nation. Restricted use pesticides are those deemed by EPA as having the potential to cause unreasonable adverse effects to the environment and injury to applicators or bystanders without added restrictions. Only licensed applicators can use or purchase RUP’s. According to the EPA, stronger standards will reduce risks to applicators, communities and the environment from pesticide exposure. The increased competency requirements will impact approximately one million certified applicators across the nation; with approximately 5,600 private and 2,700 commercial/government applicators in Montana. Changes include a minimum age of 18 for all restricted use applicators with an exemption for private applicator immediate family members for a minimum age of 16, mandatory categories for certain applications, increased competency standards, and annual training for individuals working under the supervision of licensed restricted use pesticide applicators. States can expect variable impacts depending on their pre-existing state minimum requirements. See more details of the rule and impacts in Montana at: http://www.pesticides.montana.edu/documents/news/20170124_PN_EPA_CT.pdf.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: See the EPA certification training rule website. You can view the EPA comparison chart. For any additional questions feel free to contact Cecil Tharp, Pesticide Education Specialist (406-994-5067; ctharp@montana.edu).

Top Policy Initiatives in Washington D.C. for the Week of September 12, 2016

House Agriculture Committee Addresses Outdated Packers and Stockyards Act

This week, the House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 5883, legislation to modernize the Packers and Stockyards Act. Enacted in 1921, the Packers and Stockyards Act is intended to protect buyers and sellers of livestock from unfair, deceptive, and discriminatory practices.

Having not been revised in decades, Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), chairman of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, introduced H.R. 5883, to expand the definition of “marketing agency” to include video and online auctions and update acceptable payment methods to include electronic transfer of funds, ensuring the legislation keeps up with the latest technologies available as our industry and modern banking continues to evolve.


Sage Grouse Provision Key for Western Producers

Work continues in Washington, D.C., on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY17. The House-passed version of the bill includes a provision blocking implementation of Federal management plans for the greater sage grouse over ongoing successful management of the species by Western states, livestock producers, and others. As the conferees work through the various issues contained in this year’s version of the “must pass” legislation, it’s clear that House leadership is working hard to keep the provisions in place and protect producers.

Efforts are now focused on the Senate, and in particular Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Despite documented impacts to military training exercises at installations like Yakima Training Center in Washington State, not to mention the impact of the plans on rural western economies, Senator McCain continues to resist inclusion of this critical language. Senators from around the West will continue to press this case with McCain through the fall in order to ensure this important legislation crosses the finish line intact.


Senate Agriculture Committee Holds Hearing on CFTC Commissioner Nominations

Today the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing to consider the nominations of Dr. Christopher Brummer and Brian Quintenz to serve as Commissioners of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The CFTC is charged with fostering open, transparent, competitive, and financially sound markets, to avoid systemic risk, and to protect the market users and their funds, consumers, and the public from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices related to derivatives and other products that are subject to the Commodity Exchange Act. The Commission is comprised of five Commissioners nominated by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Currently, there are two Commissioner vacancies at the CFTC. Senator Pat Roberts, chairman on the Senate Agriculture Committee, opened the hearing by stressing the charge of the CFTC Commissioner.

“As noted by the CFTC’s own mission statement:  Farmers, ranchers, producers, commercial companies (or end-users), municipalities, pension funds and others use markets to lock in a price or a rate and focus on what they do best – innovating, producing goods and services for the economy, and creating jobs,” said Roberts. “It is essential that the CFTC have individuals in charge that truly take that mission statement to heart, as the innovation and hard work of our farmers and ranchers seems to have been forgotten in recent years.”

Chairman Roberts continued and highlighted the impact the CFTC has on the agriculture industry.

“Many of us here raised concerns when Dodd-Frank was being considered and insisted that the legislation should not negatively impact those who had nothing to do with the causes of the 2008 crisis, and it is important to note that this was a bipartisan concern. Yet, when Dodd-Frank became law, and the CFTC began writing new regulations, it is in fact our farmers, our ranchers, our county grain elevator managers who felt the heavy hand of over-regulation come down on them,” said Roberts. “It is clear that Congress should not withhold needed regulatory relief for our farmers, ranchers, and risk management service providers any longer. Nor should the CFTC. The CFTC must look through the lens of regulatory practicality – not the lens of regulatory irrationality.”

Now that the CFTC is close to being fully staffed, the Commission will have the man-power and time to investigate critical issues that impact the cattle industry, like volatility in the marketplace.


Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Sides with Producers in EPA Release of Information

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency abused its discretion in disclosing farm information from producers across the country. In a long running dispute, EPA in early 2013 released the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and GPS coordinates of concentrated animal feeding operations from more than 30 states to environmental activist groups through a Freedom of Information Request. These groups included Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Natural Resources

Defense Council.

Following objections by NCBA and other producer groups, EPA reviewed the information on over 80,000 facilities and concluded they had released too much information and requested the return of the electronic documents. Despite this effort, the harm had already been done and the farm information had been disseminated to many activist groups beyond the three groups that made the FOIA request.

In the case brought against EPA by American Farm Bureau and National Pork Producers Council, the Court validated the concerns of producers across the country by determining that EPA abused its discretion in releasing personal information of farmers and ranchers and directed the Agency to refrain from future releases of such information. The Court concluded that “the EPA’s disclosure of spreadsheets containing personal information about owners of CAFOs would invade a substantial privacy interest of the owners while furthering little in the way of public interest that is cognizable under FOIA.”

While this decision cannot recapture the information already released, it does effectively prevent EPA from releasing further private producer information. The case will be remanded to the district court for further proceedings.


Senate Passes Water Resources Development Act with Key Provisions for Agriculture

The U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act today with an amendment containing an exemption for animal feed products regulated by the EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rule. The bill passed by the Senate will bring much-needed regulatory relief for small and medium sized farms and livestock producers across the country who store oil, or oil products, at their operations.

The amendment to the bill championed by Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) would wholly exempt animal feed storage tanks from the SPCC rule, both in terms of aggregate storage and single-tank storage. Additionally, it exempts up to 2,000 gallons of storage capacity on remote or separate parcels of land as long as those tanks are not larger than 1,000 gallons each.

“When it comes to preventing spills from on-farm fuel storage, producers already have every incentive in the world,” said Senator Fischer. “We live on this land. Our families drink this water.”

In May 2014, Congress acted to ease the burden by exempting producers who had up to 6,000 gallons of aboveground storage and no single tank with a capacity of 10,000 gallons or more. However, that legislation neglected to fully exempt animal feed storage from the SPCC rule. Senator Fischer’s amendment provides that critical relief to our nation’s livestock producers.

The legislation must now be considered and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

Beltway Beef is a weekly report from Washington, D.C., giving an up-to-date summary of top policy initiatives; direct from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Supreme Court Upholds Landowner Rights in WOTUS

Source: Beef Magazine

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down a pivotal decision in the ongoing and protracted efforts by cattle producers and other landowners to protect themselves from the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers and the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulations.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc., set a precedent that landowners may challenge the Corps’ jurisdictional determination specifying that a piece of property contains a “water of the United States.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association filed an amicus brief in support of Hawkes. NCBA President Tracy Brunner said this is a major victory for landowners across the country.

“This case highlights the issues landowners and land-use stakeholders have with the Clean Water Act,” said Brunner. “Neither of the options provided to landowners are realistic under the current regulatory environment. Applying for a 404 permit is expensive, exhaustive and time consuming. Gambling on EPA enforcement and risking civil and criminal penalties is foolish. This case strikes a balance that at least gives us some measure of regulatory certainty in the notoriously unclear Clean Water Act.”

The Hawkes case involved three companies engaged in mining peat in Minnesota. Due to the difficulty inherent in determining the need for a 404 Dredge and Fill Permit, the Army Corps allows property owners to obtain a standalone jurisdictional determination if a particular piece of property contains a WOTUS and therefore requires a 404 permit before using the land.

Upon receiving an approved jurisdictional determination that their land did contain a WOTUS, the companies exhausted the administrative remedies available and then filed suit in Federal District Court challenging the Corps’ jurisdictional determination. The government argued that such a jurisdictional determination was not final agency action and that landowners would have to either discharge without a permit and then challenge EPA enforcement or apply for a permit and challenge the outcome.

“Given the subjective nature of a determination and the inconsistent application of the Clean Water Act, knowing what is or is not a WOTUS was ripe for challenge,” said Brunner. “The ability to challenge a determination before going through the time-consuming and costly permitting process, or gambling on EPA enforcement, provides a measure of fairness to landowners.”

In his concurrence, Justice Kennedy expressed the Court’s continued concern with the Clean Water Act, “[t]he Act… continues to raise troubling questions regarding the Government’s power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the Nation.” NCBA is committed to continuing its WOTUS lawsuit on behalf of its members.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), now, when the Corps asserts jurisdiction over low spots that look more like land than water, it will have to do so with the knowledge that its jurisdictional determination can be tested in court.

“Today’s decision removes a huge roadblock that has prevented landowners from obtaining relief from the courts when the Corps illegally claims their land is federally regulated water,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Now, farmers and ranchers can have their day in court when the government tells them they cannot plow a field or improve a ditch without a federal permit.”

EPA Releases Waters of the U.S. Rule

waterThe Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule was finalized by EPA and Army Corps on May 27, 2015.  MSGA is currently reviewing the rule, but initially, it appears few changes have been made from the proposed rule. In a number of cases, the rule represents an expansion of federal jurisdiction beyond current practices and the limitations affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The agencies received over 1 million comments on the WOTUS proposal before they closed the second comment period on November 14, 2014. MSGA, working with NCBA, also viewed the new rule as a:

  • Increase in jurisdiction over ephemeral streams
  • New expansive jurisdiction over adjacent waters
  • Many ditches subject to federal regulation

MSGA provided extensive comments in opposition to the proposed rule, including:

  1. Removal of intermittent and ephemeral non-navigable streams from the rule.
  2. Remove the inclusion of ditches in the definition of tributary.
  3. Remove the provision that would make isolated wetlands, ponds and other open waters per se jurisdictional if they are located within a riparian area or floodplain.
  4. Withdraw the Interpretive Rule that limits the Sec. 404 “normal farming, silviculture and ranching” exemption to 56 NRCS practices, which limits landowner protections.

The Agencies have estimated the rule will cost as much as $306 million annually. MSGA is currently working with others to consider possible avenues to rewrite or halt implementation of the rule. Due to the concern over the rule, there are currently two bills in Congress to halt the proposed WOTUS Rule.

The first is the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act (H.R. 1732). This bill calls for the EPA to withdraw their rule and has passed the full House by a bi-partisan vote of 261-155.

In Senate, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140) was introduced to Environment and Public Works Committee. This bill would also require the EPA and Army Corps to withdraw the WOTUS proposal and develop a new proposal that would reach consensus with state and local governments on defining “Waters of the United States.” Senator Steve Daines is cosponsor of S. 1140 legislation.

Montana and 12 Other States Challenge New EPA & Corps of Engineers Regulation

Montana water ranching updatesOn Monday (June 29), Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and 12 other states filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) over the new regulation broadly expanding the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. The case was filed in the U.S. district court for the District of North Dakota.

In their complaint, the states contend the new definition of “Waters of the U.S.” violates provisions of the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the United States Constitution.

“Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court have rejected the very regulatory expansion that the EPA and Corps of Engineers are implementing through this new rule,” Attorney General Fox said. “This is yet another example of a federal agency acting by decree to bypass Congress and violate rights of states reserved under the law and the U.S. Constitution.”

The states assert that the EPA’s and Corps’ new rule wrongly broadens federal authority by placing a majority of water and land resource management in the hands of the federal government. Congress and the courts have repeatedly affirmed that the states have primary responsibility for the protection of intrastate waters and land management. The states argue that the burdens created by these new regulations on waters and lands are harmful and will negatively affect farmers, ranchers, and landowners. As a result, landowners will have to seek additional federal permits or face substantial fines and federal criminal enforcement actions.

“Clean water is important to all of us, and we Montanans know how to protect our waters,” Fox said. “Through our state Constitution, the 1971 Water Quality Control Act, and other legislation, we have established strong water protections tailored to the unique needs of our communities. These new federal regulations add a complicated and unnecessary layer of rules.”

The states are asking the court to vacate the rule and enjoin the EPA and Corps from enforcing the new, significantly expanded definition of “Waters of the U.S.”

Senator Brad Hamlett (D-Cascade), chairman of the legislature’s Water Policy Interim Committee, spoke in support of the lawsuit. “Montana’s Constitution states that all of the water that falls and flows within the boundaries of Montana belongs to the state for the beneficial use of its citizens,” Sen. Hamlett said. “Now we have two federal executive branch agencies, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, attempting to assert control over Montana state waters by rule. This is, in my opinion, unconstitutional, a deliberate interference with our state’s most valuable resource, and must be stopped dead in its tracks. This is not about clean water, it is about jurisdiction, as Montana being a headwaters state cherishes and protects its waters and knowing the lay of the land and our waters best we definitely, constitutionally, and practically need to remain in control.”

Montana’s local governments and agricultural community also expressed their support of Attorney General Fox’s decision to challenge the new federal regulations.

“The Montana Association of Counties is pleased that Attorney General Fox is joining other states in challenging these new regulations,” said Harold Blattie, executive director of the Montana Association of Counties. “The EPA and Corps failed to consider concerns expressed by over 40 Montana counties about placing an undue burden on their ability to perform routine road maintenance. The final regulation lacks the clarity for counties to even be able to tell which roadside ditches are now under the EPA’s and Corps’ jurisdiction and which are not.”

“In our initial review of the finalized Waters of the U.S. regulation, it represents a significant expansion of federal jurisdiction beyond current practices and the limitations affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Errol Rice, Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “The final regulation ignores state and local efforts to protect these waters and will have major implications for all Montanans. As ranchers who already have practices in place to promote water quality, we see the final regulation as problematic to implement and causing more harm and confusion rather than clarifying the law.”

“Farmers and ranchers are still very concerned with the EPA’s new regulation,” said Nicole Rolf of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. “It takes power away from state and local governments, while at the same time burdening farmers and ranchers with unnecessary and ridiculous rules. We very much appreciate that Attorney General Tim Fox recognizes these problems and is willing to defend Montanans who make their living raising food.”

The Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Building Industry Association, Montana Contractors Association, and the Montana Association of Realtors are also in support of the legal challenge.

Joining Montana in the suit are the states of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

–Press Release, Attorney General Tim Fox


WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Senator Steve Daines released the following statement on Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and 12 other states’ lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) over the new regulation broadly expanding the definition of the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS).

“I applaud Attorney General Tim Fox for standing up for Montana farmers, ranchers and small businesses against another egregious power grab by the Obama administration. This rule has the capability to cripple Montana agriculture and natural resources, hurt Montana jobs and threaten Montanans’ property rights.  As this lawsuit moves through the judicial system, I will continue to fight tirelessly against the EPA’s overreach to protect Montana jobs, agriculture and natural resources.”

Daines is a cosponsor of S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act that would direct the EPA and Corps to issue a revised WOTUS rule that protects traditional navigable water from water pollution, while also protecting farmers, ranchers and private landowners.

The full text of S.1140 is available here.

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Federal Spending Bill Includes Important Provisions for Producers

WASHINGTON – The House Interior appropriations bill passed through committee on Tuesday, June 16, 30 to 21. The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association strongly support the bill, which allocates how federal dollars are spent for the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and related agencies during fiscal year 2016. The bill included language that would help provide relief from the regulatory burdens that continue to hamper the productivity and profitability of farmers and ranchers across the country.

From language that blocks the listing of the Sage Grouse, to requiring alternative allotments where ranchers are impacted by drought or wildfire without the need to complete extensive environmental analyses and many others, Dustin Van Liew, PLC and NCBA federal lands executive director, said the provisions are important to keeping livestock producers in business.

This bill would maintain the current grazing fee, fund the range budgets at the same levels as fiscal year 2015 and prohibit funding for the creation of de facto wilderness areas under Secretarial Order 3310. These are all critical in maintaining the viability of federal lands grazing and multiple use.

“This bill contained several priorities for public lands ranchers,” said Van Liew. “Our industry supports the current federal grazing fee formula, which is based on market criteria and accurately reflects the costs of operating on public lands. We also support maintaining range budgets so the agencies can retain staff and work to reduce backlogs, managing the additional burdens of red-tape and frivolous litigation.”

The bill also continues to block listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act through September 30, 2016.

“Due to a closed-door settlement between United States Fish and Wildlife Service and radical environmental groups, arbitrary deadlines have been set for making hundreds of decisions on species in all fifty states to be listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Van Liew. “We encourage Congress to provide direction to the agencies to defer to state sage grouse management plans so that land management agencies cannot continue to make decisions that will negatively impact livestock grazing. Research shows that livestock grazing is one of the only tools available to benefit sage grouse habitat; reducing fuel loads and preserving open space.”

Scott Yager, NCBA environmental counsel, commended lawmakers for including language that would help reign in the EPA’s attempt to control even more land and water on private property.

“This committee took the much needed step of defunding the implementation of the EPA’s waters of the United States final rule,” said Yager. “The final rule released by the agency does not satisfy the concerns of cattle producers or land owners. The provisions contained in this legislation send a clear signal to the EPA that they need to start over, working with Congress, land owners, and the states to draft a rule that will work for everyone.”

The committee took a positive step, in line with last year’s bill, by including a provision to withhold funding to any rule that would require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems. The committee additionally continued to include language preventing EPA from requiring Clean Air Act permits from livestock operations based on greenhouse gas emissions.

PLC and NCBA encourage the full House to take up this bill without delay.