If you live in rural America, odds are that hearing the phrase “waters of the United States” – more commonly known as WOTUS – gives you some unease.  

We don’t blame you. For years, farmers, ranchers, small business owners, landowners and families throughout rural America have faced the possibility of thousands of dollars in fines per day from the federal government in an egregious example of government overreach. 

In 2015, the Obama-Biden administration enacted a WOTUS rule that essentially gave the federal government jurisdiction over every body of water in the country, including streams and ditches. 

Now, the Biden administration is back with a new WOTUS rule that will create more uncertainty and condemn communities across the country to regulatory limbo. 

Environmentalists say the Wyoming's waterways are being polluted by runoff from ranches. (AP)
Environmentalists say the Wyoming’s waterways are being polluted by runoff from ranches. (AP)

Congressional Western Caucus members have fought back against this mandate by working to uphold the Navigable Waters Protection Rule and by joining over 200 House Republicans in rejecting the current expansive rulemaking, especially before the U.S. Supreme Court decides a case that would directly impact this very issue.  

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Sackett v. EPA in October and is expected to release a decision in early 2023. The case that will undoubtedly help clarify the definition of “navigable waters.” So, on top of encroaching on private property rights, the Biden administration is wasting taxpayer dollars on an effort that will likely be disputed by the highest Court in the land. Still, the administration seems intent on sowing the seeds of uncertainty for all of those impacted by WOTUS regulations – namely our farmers and ranchers. 

As farmers, we understand that those of us closest to the land, whose livelihoods depend on clean water, clean air and healthy ecosystems, are the best stewards of our resources – not the federal government. We should not need teams of attorneys to determine whether we can plow a field or make improvements to our land. Unfortunately, that will be the reality with a return to burdensome and confusing water rules. 

An amicus brief submitted to the court by the American Farm Bureau Federation details how agriculture producers bear the brunt of expansive WOTUS regulations, and an amicus brief submitted by members of the Western Caucus further outlines how regulatory overreach can actually harm effective efforts to protect and conserve clean water.  

Instead of assisting farmers’ and ranchers’ efforts to protect clean water, the EPA’s proposed WOTUS rule is a boon to activists who will use it to stall, delay or halt rural development, eliminate incentives for locally led conservation, and further erode the confidence of America’s farmers and ranchers in the federal government.  

The Western Caucus and the American Farm Bureau Federation, our nation’s largest advocacy organization for farmers and ranchers, have worked together to hear firsthand the impacts WOTUS will have on our agriculture industry, and the message is clear: the Biden Administration’s rule will not result in cleaner water, but it will threaten our nation’s food supply chain. 

Rather than weaponizing top-down mandates, we have strongly advocated that the federal government provide regulatory certainty to the men and women who produce the food, fuel, and fiber for the world.  

We will continue to fight for farmers and ranchers, rural communities and clean water throughout the United States. We can ensure clean water for future generations without regulatory red tape and sweeping federal regulations. 

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