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Farmers Fired Up Over Proposed EPA Rule Changes

Reported by: Send eMail Stefano DiPietrantonio
Reported: Jun. 16, 2014 11:15 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 17, 2014 9:18 AM EDT

Farmers Fired Up
Eyewitness News Photo

Sissonville , Kanawha County , West Virginia

Area farmers are fired up over some proposed new EPA rules that could greatly affect the way they operate on their own land.

A group of farmers met with Steve Butler from the State Farm Bureau Monday night in Sissonville to talk about the potential problems, if they don’t act now to stop the proposed changes.

For starters, Butler said any place water collects or runs through a property, for example, after a storm would now fall under federal jurisdiction, under the Waters of the United States, which is part of the Clean Water Act of 1972. Farming is already a tough life for some here in West Virginia, and farmers are worried these rules could make it a permitting nightmare for them.

It’s a battle for control over water between farmers and the EPA.

"Basically they're claiming, anywhere where water flows, stands or pools, any time of the year, they have control over that land," said Butler, who added the proposal broadens the EPA's rule, forcing farmers to get permits for their own lands. Permits that could be given or denied.

"Everybody should be concerned about it, not only farmers, but also home builders, coal miners, timber operators. It affects all land users, not just farmers," Butler said.

Even though there is no water in a ditch pictured in Butler’s presentation, if a farmer were to spread manure or chemicals on the land around it after a storm, water could flow through it, so a farmer would have to get a permit.

"All right, so let's say you have an emergency on your property, you don't have time to get a permit, you've got to take care of that situation right now, what are you going to do?,” Eyewitness News asked farmer Sharon LaDriere. “Well, you're gonna be fined if you don't have the permits," she said.

LaDriere acknowledges she is worried, but said the time to fight is now.

"It's much better to stop something before it starts, than to try and change it after it's been enacted," she said.

"You've got to do what you've got to do at the moment, and then deal with the consequences afterwards," said her husband, Allen LaDriere.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 gave the EPA control of navigable streams. Now they are trying to clarify the rule by regulating ephemeral streams, which typically develop then disappear after a heavy rainfall.

"To try to stop us from doing almost anything with our property and what is happening is going far, far beyond farming," said LaDriere, who is “hot” about being told what to do on his own property.

"It's your land,” Eyewitness News said. “That's what we're here for. They shouldn't. Plain and simple, they should not," LaDriere said.

The Farm Bureau has until October to get as much public comment as it can on this issue. There are about 68,000 comments right now, Butler said, with the majority being “for” the proposal. There is a petition here.

If it passes, farmers said food prices, among other expenses, will soar.

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