Under Obama, The EPA and the Corps of Engineers were building this concept of Waters of the USA. They expanded the definition of wetlands to include almost any farm in the country. If it had come about it would have put most farming activities under the thumb of the Federal government. The new rules would have killed off a lot of agriculture.
Trump got rid of the Federal rules. But now in California, Governor Brown is reviving them on the state level. He wants to create the same type of controls on farmers than Obama wanted on the federal level.
Waters of the USA have a long and checkered history since first being created in the 1970’s. I’m going to try to explain it, but its a complicated, convoluted trail that only a very astute politician could follow. I’m not sure how we’ll make out on it, but here goes: It began in the 1970’s and was fraught with problems from the start. As a result of a 2006 Supreme Court decision, there was even more controversy over the Waters of the USA concept. It wasn’t created by an act of Congress as much as by the split decision wrote in 2006 by two opposing judges with opposing definitions – Antonin Scalia, with the conservative opinion; and Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the“significant nexus” opinion in the 2006 case. President Obama followed the direction set by Kennedy. The EPA created extensive rules and regulations which were fought bitterly by farmers and others.
But now, with the regime change in Washington, the rules have been changed. President Trump followed the decision wrote by Justice Scalia, and his appointees have eliminated the worst of the Waters of the USA concept. Farmers no longer need the permission of the EPA if they want to plow. Landowners around the country breathed a huge sigh of relief.
But some people in California think those rules are a good idea. The State Water Resources Control Board is readying its own regulations to prevent landowners from plowing, paving or damaging land that could possibly get wet part of the time.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Daily News, farmers, homebuilders, developers, and business groups have already testified against these proposed state regulations. They warn that the rules will strip away the rights of landowners, raise costs, and damage the state’s economy.
We better keep an eye on this movement. I hope Sacramento comes to its senses soon. This doesn’t bode well for agriculture as we know it.