ST. PAUL, MN (AP)
Some farmers in Minnesota have expressed concern that new rules on how wetlands are protected will give federal regulators an expanded role on their fields.
Minnesota Public Radio News reported that under Minnesota law, all wetlands are protected. And under Clean Water Act rules, farmers don't currently need permits for things like cleaning a drainage ditch if they are following proper practices.
But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently decided to change the rule that defines what land use practices are regulated, and redefine which waters fall under federal jurisdiction. John Jaschke, director of the state Board of Water and Soil Resources, said that means some wetlands would be protected and others wouldn't.
And that has farmers concerned.
"We really believe this is going to create new regulatory burdens," Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap said. "We're willing to sit down and have a constructive conversation about what is exempt, what is not exempt. More clarity on what the intent of this rule means to those on the land."
Paap said he's not opposed to regulation, but rules need to be clear.
EPA officials say they were surprised by farmers' reactions; the agency sees the changes as pro-agriculture. The EPA said it will continue talking with farmers before deciding on its next steps.
Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson said the EPA did a poor job in conveying its message.
"The bottom line is there is so much confusion on this in the countryside, it's going to be a long time before it's implemented," he said.
In Minnesota, the effect of any new rule would likely be muted because the state has its own laws to protect water, said Jaschke, of the water and soil resources board. He said state law "already has an equivalent or greater level of protection in most cases."