Government Body Goes From Conservation Partner to ‘Enforcer’

US – Dairy farmers are hitting out at new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water conservation guidelines which they say will perversely ‘discourage’ water conservation.
calendar icon 9 July 2014
clock icon 1 minute read

Officially dubbed the Interpretive Rule, the new guidelines change a long standing relationship between farmers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), according to the National Milk Producers Federation. 

A request was sent from the NMPF on Monday for the EPA to withdraw the guidelines, issued in March.

The NMPF warned that farmers must seek Clean Water Act permits for a long list of 'normal farming activities near wetlands'.  

“Until now, NRCS has been the place producers could go for conservation advice, while EPA was charged with ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act,” said Jamie Jonker, NMPF’s Vice President for Sustainability & Scientific Affairs.

“The cooperative relationship with NRCS made it more likely farmers would adopt water conservation practices.”

“Unfortunately the interpretive rule moves NRCS into an enforcement role and, in the process, could set back conservation efforts.”

He highlighted hay making as a practice now with greater environmental burdens.

“Many dairy farmers harvest hay without any reference to NRCS standards,” said Mr Jonker.

“Will these farmers now be forced to comply with Standard No. 511? If so, many will simply choose not to work with the NRCS. As a result, there will be less water conservation on farms, not more.”

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