The latest chapter in wetlands policy is resulting in more uncertainty for farmers and ranchers. A federal court in Arizona struck down the Navigable Waters Protection Rule that was implemented last year. “The 2015 WOTUS rule is no longer on the books so because of the Arizona court decision the regulations revert back to the pre-existing pre-WOTUS rule that date back to 1986,” said Scott Yager, chief environmental counsel, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “Those regulations are more expansive than the Trump Administration’s 2020 rule that was vacated.” Yager said the Navigable Waters rule had clear exclusions for agriculture. “We knew that if we had a stock pond, it was not going to be regulated by WOTUS or if we had an irrigation ditch, it would not be regulated by WOTUS. We lose that by virtue of this decision and we go back to the ’86 regs that are as muddy as ever.” Legal options are being considered to provide regulatory certainty. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is going through its own process to replace the Navigable Waters rule. Yager says NCBA will be monitoring that activity to determine how broadly federal agencies interpret this court decision.
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