In her address at the National Farmers Union Convention in Wichita, Kansas March 16, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy promised the agency would soon come out with a final Waters of the Unites States (WOTUS) rule and also committed to movement on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“I really wish we had done a better job of rolling out the clean water rule,” McCarthy said, alluding to pushback EPA has faced from the ag community since the rule was introduced. “I’m really concerned that we weren’t crystal-clear enough, not only about what we intended to do, but also what we weren’t intending to do.”

McCarthy thanked NFU and its members for their helpful feedback on the rule and praised NFU President Roger Johnson for his handling of the situation, saying, “I want to thank you for not having a knee-jerk reaction.”

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are working hard to finalize the Clean Water Act by this spring, she said, noting clearer definitions are being proposed for tributaries, ditches and other terms that had caused concern with national farm organizations.

“Most farm ditches were never covered before, and they won’t be in this new rule,” she promised. “We will be very clear and articulate that the waters we don’t need to protect will not be jurisdictional – farmers and ranchers will be able to go about their business of producing the food, fuel and fiber we all depend on.”

The Administrator made it clear that her agency is not interested in regulating puddles or claiming jurisdiction over all ditches. Current exclusions and exemptions for agriculture will also remain in place.

“We don’t want to protect water that isn’t a significant concern to downstream waters,” McCarthy said. “We’re making a targeted effort to protect the waters that matter most.”

McCarthy also promised movement on the RFS. “The RFS is a complicated program, and we weren’t able to accomplish what we needed to do last year,” she said. “Implementing the RFS as Congress intended has been challenging.”

NFU President Roger Johnson thanked the administrator for her hard work but urged her to get the RFS moving forward. “The RFS is a major economic engine for family farmers and although it’s complicated, it needs to get done,” he said.

McCarthy ended by noting that farmers and the agency are not at odds with each other on the goals of clean water. “As long as we remind ourselves that we are totally aligned in our goals, we will get this job done and we will get this job done well,” she said.

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