As they struggle to roll out their overreaching and controversial Water of the United States (WOTUS) rule, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are asking farmers to simply trust them.
The officials assure farmers that the rule, which has so far been held at bay by court cases, won’t really affect agriculture all that much. They are taking pains to say that WOTUS won’t really push farmers into an abyss of vague and often-conflicting rules on what is covered under the Clean Water Act and what is not. And, they contend that the rule won’t really force farmers to get permits for normal practices, such as plowing or spraying.
But farmers I know are very worried about WOTUS and aren’t really buying the EPA reassurances. And, quite frankly, considering the agency’s recent actions, can you blame them?
First, there was the EPA’s illegal social media campaign to sell the WOTUS rule to the public. The agency, the General Accounting Office ruled, illegally used the public comment process for regulations to gin up support for the ill-advised rule.
Basically, according to press reports, the EPA used a new type of social media tool to blast emails out to millions of everyday citizens to build support for WOTUS. All folks had to do was click a button that said "I support clean water" and those comments got counted. The sheer volume of these click messages drowned out comments from farmers or others, no matter how well researched or thoughtful.
And, last week, the EPA got caught again in a situation that can’t really build trust with farmers.
It turns out that the agency is helping fund a campaign in Washington state that accuses farmers of polluting water. It includes billboards and a website complete with a pre-written email to criticize the actions of farmers.
The anti-farmer campaign apparently passed EPA muster and the agency didn’t appear to think twice about it until some powerful ag state lawmakers took it to task.
So you can see there might be a few, or maybe a whole lot of farmers who are skeptical when the EPA asks them to trust the agency on WOTUS.
In my experience in Iowa’s farm country, trust is something that has to be earned and the EPA is not doing it.