What’s the definition of insanity again? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time? It think that’s what Einstein said.
If that’s the case, then last week, I felt a little insane. Not so much because I expected different results each time, but more because I spent what seems like the majority of my time issuing statements from the Illinois Farm Bureau on a variety of legislative and regulatory topics which affect the farmers do their jobs.
It was kind of like the perfect storm.
In the last week and a half, the U.S. Senate voted to approve the Trade Promotion Authority (yay!), the Illinois state legislature was busy with budget arguments and passing a few final bills (good and bad and messy), and the EPA announced its final ruling on Waters of the U.S. and issued the 2014, 2015 and 2015 Renewable Fuels Standard mandate (seriously, EPA?) — all of which meant statements from Illinois Farm Bureau were soon to follow.
All of the statements Illinois Farm Bureau issued were important to farmers across the state for one reason or another, but of particular importance was the statement Illinois Farm Bureau issued on EPA’s final Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. From the get-go, farmers have put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or even hand to phone to let EPA and Congress know the then-proposed rule was, well, hogwash.
The proposed regulation was far-reaching, allowing the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to gobble up privately owned land under regulatory authority and change the way it can and can’t be used. And it proposed regulating, basically, EVERY. DROP. OF. WATER. Which means that water in a ditch, even if that ditch was dry 95 percent of the time, could fall under EPA’s regulatory reach. Tributaries, navigable water, adjacent waters, floodplains — pretty much everything. That feeling of insanity is creeping back in…
That ‘pretty much everything’ is why business owners, chambers of commerce, farm organizations, and farmers themselves, reached out in droves to let EPA know the rule wouldn’t fly. Instead, after extending the initial comment period twice, the EPA ignored all of their concerns and issued their final rule last week.
So what does that mean for the farmers and business owners who were opposed to the proposed rule in the first place? Well, that’s still up in the air. The rule will take effect within 60 days of being published in the Federal Register, so time is short. There’s legislation working its way through the House and Senate to stop the ruling, but given the time it takes to get bills through Congress these days, it may be too late. That, and it can, and probably would be, vetoed by the President.
There’s also talk of some states taking the EPA to court over the ruling because of EPA’s unorthodox, and probably illegal, processes used to gain public support for the rule change. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.
Organizations and municipalities continue to review the final rule and discuss options for moving forward. Unfortunately because of the rule’s complexity, that will take time, too.
Either way, it looks like we have a long, drawn out mess on our hands.