More than 200 members of the House of Representatives, from both parties, have joined together to tell the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to back off its plan to expand federal control under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Both agencies are seeking a rule change to give the federal government more authority by expanding the already overly broad definition of “navigable waters” under the CWA.

Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) authored the letter to the EPA and USACE outlining strong concerns about the negative impact the proposed rule will have on farms all across the country.  The letter attracted a total of 231 signatures from both Republicans and Democrats, representing more than half of the House.

The National Chicken Council joined scores of other livestock, poultry and agricultural organizations in supporting the letter.  The groups said that the proposed rule would establish a very broad definition of “waters of the U.S.” that goes well beyond the authority granted the agencies by Congress.

“This new definition would be subject to Federal regulation areas that are currently not under the jurisdiction of EPA and the Corps,” the groups wrote in a letter supporting the Collins-Schrader Dear Colleague.  “The effect of this rule on normal farming practices would be significant and precedent setting. For example, ditches adjacent to farm land would be covered under the rule.”

The letter continued, “Equally important, the proposed rule is not consistent with Supreme Court rulings made in 2001 and 2006 which clearly spelled out the jurisdictional limits of the agencies under the Clean Water Act. EPA and the Corps did not have any direct involvement with the agriculture community while the rule was being developed. Moreover, EPA’s Science Advisory Board is still in the process of reviewing a report prepared by EPA which purportedly is the basis for formulating the proposed rule.”

“This issue is potentially the most critical issue now before Congress affecting agriculture and it is critical that members of Congress go on record to tell the agency that it is overstepping the bounds set for it by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. We believe the rule should be withdrawn.”