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Peterson and Thompson Introduce Wetlands Reform

Legislation would modernize wetlands determinations and ‘normal farming practices’ under the Clean Water Act

 

February 10, 2020



WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Collin Peterson, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-15) introduced H.R. 5799, the Bridging Responsible Agricultural Conservation Efforts Act. The legislation will provide clarity for landowners and consistency when federal agencies designate wetlands under current federal law.

Under the Clean Water Act, wetlands considered "Waters of the U.S.” are regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to protect wetlands through conservation provisions contained in the 1985 Farm Bill. H.R. 5799 would establish consistency between the agencies, by clarifying the regulation of wetlands on farms and ranches under the Clean Water Act. Importantly, the legislation also directs the agencies, in consultation with USDA, to promulgate a new rule under the Clean Water Act in order to modernize the definition of ‘normal farming practices.'

“I’m pleased to join with Congressman Thompson to introduce legislation to provide certainty to prior converted wetlands on ag lands and also requires the Army Corps and EPA to rewrite the outdated 'normal farming practice' regulation," said Chairman Collin Peterson.

“For decades, farmers and ranchers have experienced uncertainty, confusion, and undue costs through wetland determinations. Modernizing normal farming practices and clearly defining converted croplands will finally bring certainty and fairness to this process," said Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson. "This legislation will be a win for farmers, ranchers, and landowners nationwide."

Specifically, the legislation would:

• Require EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to recognize prior-converted and commenced-converted lands that are already certified by USDA.

• Direct EPA and the Army Corps to promulgate a new rule under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, specifying ‘normal farming practices.’ Within this rulemaking, the bill would require EPA and the Corps to include haying and pasturing as normal farming practices.

• Prohibits lands certified by USDA as prior-converted or commenced-converted lands from being “recaptured” into the CWA.

• Protect farmer property rights by prohibiting agency interpretations if there is regulatory ambiguity when making a wetlands determination.

 

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