Grass & Grain

07-22-2014

Agricultural Newspaper

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By Donna Sullivan, Editor "Water and the Kansas economy are directly linked. Water is a finite resource and without further planning and action we will no longer be able to meet our state's needs, let alone growth." With that admonition, Kansas Gov. Sam Brown- back set in motion the devel- opment of a 50-Year Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas. Driving that vision is the fact that if nothing is done, in the next fifty years the Ogallalah Aquifer will be seventy percent depleted and many of the state's reser- voirs will be forty percent filled with sediment. The week of July 7, vi- sion team members traveled 1,500 miles around the state, speaking with more than 825 citizens as they presented the preliminary discussion draft of that vision. The document is the culmina- tion of six months that the team spent holding meetings with stakeholders and organ- izations, gathering their input as to what should be addressed concerning water issues in Kansas. They at- tended more than 180 meet- ings, addressing nearly 10,000 people. At the meeting held in Manhattan on July 10, Kansas Secretary of Agricul- ture Jackie McClaskey em- phasized that it truly is a pre- liminary discussion draft. "We've included everything that we have heard on a re- peated basis across the state during our meetings and we really wanted to create a document for people to react to and discuss," she said. "This is not at all something where we're saying this is the final draft and this is what we endorse. Nor is the governor saying, 'This is my plan.' This is designed to create discussion and really get people talking about what our priorities should be." McClaskey acknowl- edged that she sensed a con- cern among stakeholders that this would be just anoth- er study that once complet- ed, just sits on a shelf. "Our attempt was to put some- thing together that wouldn't just sit on a shelf," she stat- ed. "Something that would be a dynamic document, but also something that would hold us and every other par- ticipant in the project and in the vision long-term ac- countable." With accountability as one of the goals, the docu- ment starts out with a vision, then the mission that delves more into executing the vi- sion, followed by statewide and regional goals and ex- amples of what those goals might look like. It is then di- vided into four themes: water conservation, water management, technologies and crop varieties, and new sources of supply. "Those themes came out of the input we received," McClaskey emphasized. "Not things we started with then tried to put things into them. We listened to the input and then created those themes from it." Within each strategy there are action items and measurable mile- stones. The milestones are divided into short-term items that could be accomplished in thirty, sixty or ninety days as well as long-term ones that could take the life of the vision to fully accomplish. There are over 170 action items in the document, not By Donna Sullivan, Editor In an attempt to clear up what she believes are misun- derstandings concerning the Clean Water Act proposal, EPA administrator Gina Mc- Carthy addressed the Agri- cultural Business Council of Kansas City on July 10. The meeting followed visits to several Midwest farms, in- cluding the Bill and Judy Heffernan farm near Colum- bia, Missouri the day before. "I'm beginning to under- stand the kinds of conversa- tions that we need to develop the relationship I want to have between EPA and the agriculture community," she said. "Because we are really moving forward to deal with some difficult issues. Noth- ing is ever easy, but if we work together, I believe we can make substantial pro- gress and develop the kind of trusting relationship that you expect to have with an ag- ency whose purpose is pub- lic health and environmental protection, which is frankly what the agriculture commu- nity has also been all about. So it's a wonderful opportu- nity." The problematic issue for ag producers in the proposed rule, for which the comment period has been extended to October 20, is changes to the definition and scope of "nav- igable waters" and "waters of the United States." "The aim of this proposal is clear," McCarthy said. "To clear up legal confusion and protect waters that are vital to our health, using sound science so that EPA can get its job done." While McCarthy stressed that the proposal will place fewer waters under EPA ju- risdiction than when Ronald Reagan was president, oppo- nents argue that proposed definitions under the water act would extend federal ju- risdiction beyond what was intended in the Clean Water Act and pave the way for federal intervention in up- land practices. Earlier that week, the U.S. House of Re- presentatives passed its an- nual Energy and Water Ap- propriations bill that includ- ed a provision requested by Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-KS, to stop attempts by the EPA and Corps of Engineers to rewrite the Clean Water Act. "This Washington power grab would subject nearly all waters in the U.S. to EPA control, including those in road ditches, farm ponds, prairie potholes, swimming pools, water tanks and rain puddles in Kansas and else- where," Huelskamp said in a statement released after the bill's 253-170 passage. Kansas Gov. Sam Brown- back also spoke out against the rule. "The most recent actions by the Environmen- tal Protection Agency, with proposed sweeping defini- tions under the Clean Water Act shows a complete disre- gard for Kansas business, in- dustry and farm and ranch families," he said. McCarthy addressed things that she'd been hear- ing concerning the rule. "You know, in D.C., all we hear about are things like the EPA's new rule will shut down the July 4th fireworks, EPA is trying to regulate rain in puddles or driveways and in playgrounds, and every conservation practice that we all want to see happen will now require a permit. None of that is true." She spoke of a roundtable discussion following the Heffernan farm visit, where producers were able to voice their concerns. "We were able to have real conversa- tion about real serious is- sues," she said. "Those are the conversations that EPA is going to show up for every time. That's a big step for- ward. We ditched the D.C. myths and talked about the issues that matter to all of us. If we keep this up, we will have a final rule of which we can all be very proud." McCarthy said that the EPA will not be regulating groundwater, as those regula- tions fall under the purview of the states. "EPA is not regulat- ing all activities in flood- plains, or every puddle, dry wash and erosional feature. In fact, we are doing just the op- posite. If cattle cross a wet field – that's a normal farming practice and all normal farm- ing practices are still exempt. The bottom line is – if you didn't need a permit before this proposed rule, you won't need one when it's finalized." Saying that she'd used the word "ditches" more in the last several months than she ever thought she would have to, McCarthy said the pro- posal specifically states they are not regulating all ditches. "While some ditches are connected to larger water systems, some are not, and therefore not jurisdictional," she said. "Most of them don't look or feel like a stream, so they are off the table. But keep in mind that up to 117 million people rely on waters that run seasonal- ly. That doesn't mean you need a permit, just that you should take care to ensure that it continues to serve us all well." Another concern for pro- ducers is the interpretive rule that includes 56 conserva- tion practices that many feel box in what producers are al- lowed to do. "We did not narrow exemptions," Mc- Carthy said. "Those 56 are a subset to the existing exemp- tions for normal farming, ranching and silviculture. That's why we put them in a separate rule – so we could add to it as needed. No one should have to think twice about taking advantage of these conservation prac- tices." Kansas Agriculture Sec- retary Jackie McClaskey dis- agreed. "Despite EPA state- ments, the agency narrowed statutory exemptions for agriculture under the CWA," she said. "These require- ments will prevent expan- sions, conservation practice implementation and other beneficial activities that pro- vide jobs and water quality benefits for Kansas." Aaron Popelka, vice pres- ident of legal and govern- ment affairs for Kansas Livestock Association, said McCarthy misrepresented the content of the proposed rule when she said it would not regulate groundwater, land use or new types of ditches. According to Popel- ka, legal analysis by KLA and other national and state organizations indicates the proposal would expand fed- eral jurisdiction to include groundwater, ponds, ditches and in some cases, dry land. McCarthy said she be- lieves clean drinking water does not have to come at the expense of a strong farm economy, or vice versa. "We can protect people and prop- erty, without getting in the way of farmers and ranchers doing their jobs," she said. "We've done it before – from farm equipment emis- sions standards to safer pes- ticide use, we've put aside our differences, put our trust in science and forged part- nerships in the name of progress." Information on the rule can be found on EPA's web- site, www2.epa.gov /uswa- ters. With the comment peri- od extended another ninety days, producers have the op- portunity to familiarize themselves with the rule and express their concerns as the process moves forward. EPA administrator, ag groups differ on implications of Clean Water Act proposal EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke to the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City regarding the proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule under the Clean Water Act. Photo by Donna Sullivan Preliminary draft of 50-Year Water Vision unveiled Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office, pre- sented information on the Preliminary Discussion Draft of the Governor's 50-Year Vision for Water in Kansas at a meeting in Manhattan July 10. It was one of twelve meetings held around the state. Continued on page 6

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