I read your coverage of the proposed new clean water ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with interest ("Muddy waters of the U.S.," HCN, 6/23/14; "Is the Clean Water Act under attack?" hcn.org, 6/24/14), and wish to add a few sentiments to the mix. For more than 100 years, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union has been a strong advocate for family farming and ranching in Colorado and the Intermountain West. We support the new "waters of the U.S." rule and take exception to much of the media's reporting of "agriculture's opposition" to the new clean water ruling.
What has happened, unfortunately, is that the American Farm Bureau Federation, with its outsized presence in Washington, D.C., has spoken the loudest on the new ruling, making some misleading and hyperbolic statements about it, while pretending to speak for all farmers. In reality, we have found that actual farmers, ranchers and rural communities need and deeply appreciate both clean drinking water and balanced water policy. The new rule is a step in the right direction. It clarifies what has been a confusing and arbitrary policy for producers to follow, while seeking to provide cleaner water resources for everyone. (A full third of U.S. waters are currently too toxic for fishing, swimming or drinking.)
The additional three months provided by the EPA's extended comment period, which ends Oct. 20, give the broader agricultural community a golden opportunity. We can now demonstrate that, while water policy might be an incredibly complex issue for reporters to cover, the Farm Bureau's oversimplification and heated rhetoric does not speak for everyone. In fact, it's a glaring misrepresentation. In truth, cleaner, safer drinking water is what the new rule is about, something working farmers, ranchers and rural communities welcome.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union