Many of the things farmers do on a daily basis to produce food and maintain their land come under strict environmental oversight.

NAWG works on a variety of environmental issues to ensure policymakers have accurate information and to advocate for laws and regulations that are appropriate for agricultural operations.

Sixth Circuit Case

In January, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down the first U.S. court ruling that pesticide discharge is a point source of pollution subject to additional regulation and permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The impact of this decision, made in the case of National Cotton Council of America v U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is that the EPA will almost certainly require producers to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits or some other type of permit for each and every pesticide application, even if applied within label requirements. In June, the Court ordered a two-year stay of the decision to allow time for EPA and state regulators to implement it properly, and in August, the Court rejected a request from NAWG and other agricultural organizations for a rehearing by the entire Sixth Circuit.

EPA estimates the ruling will affect approximately 365,000 pesticide applicators that perform 5.6 million pesticide applications annually.

Clean Water Act

A number of Supreme Court rulings in recent years have have complicated the definition of the “navigable waters of the United States,” over which the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers have authority under the Clean Water Act.

In April 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a regulation defining waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act. Subsequently, a final regulation was issued in May 2015. NAWG expressed concern regarding both the proposed regulation and the final regulation for the expanded jurisdiction of the Act and lack of clarity provided to growers.NAWG believes the regulation will not provide clarification for growers in determining which waters on their farming operation may become jurisdictional under the regulation.

NAWG endorsed legislation to require EPA to revise the regulation and issue a new proposal.

SPCC

The Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule requires regulated facilities to develop and implement plans to help prevent oil discharges from reaching navigable waters. SPCC regulations were first issued in 1974, but did not touch agriculture until 2002.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 modified the requirements of SPCC for agriculture. The requirements for agriculture were updated after the EPA released a study in June 2015, as directed by the WRRDA law in 2014.

NAWG supports increasing the exemption to up to 10,000 gallons and supports the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act. Information for farmers on SPCC compliance and the new requirement is available from EPA here