W.Va. farm bureaus fight new EPA water rules

Journal photo by Ron Agnir Jimmy Jones, a 79-year-old retired farmer, shares his frustration with the EPA at a Farm Bureau meeting attended by over 100 concerned citizens Monday evening in Martinsburg.
Journal photo by Ron Agnir Jimmy Jones, a 79-year-old retired farmer, shares his frustration with the EPA at a Farm Bureau meeting attended by over 100 concerned citizens Monday evening in Martinsburg.
Journal photo by Ron Agnir
Jimmy Jones, a 79-year-old retired farmer, shares his frustration with the EPA at a Farm Bureau meeting attended by over 100 concerned citizens Monday evening in Martinsburg.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — It was practically a unanimous consensus of those attending a meeting of the Farm Bureaus of Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties Monday evening that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has overstepped its authority with a new definition of Waters of the United States.

“There’s no common sense and it’s unfair – we need to ditch the EPA,” retired Berkeley County dairy farmer Jimmy Jones said.

“Ditch the Rule” is the theme of the American Farm Bureau’s, West Virginia Farm Bureau’s and local farm bureaus’ fight against the new EPA rule.

The new definition, which the U.S. Corps of Engineers helped to write, would classify nearly every flowing, standing and ponding body of water as a Water of the United States, or WOTUS, according to Stephen Butler, administrator of the West Virginia Farm Bureau. The new definition would add farm ponds, residential stormwater runoff ditches, wet-weather ephemeral streams, rainwater standing in fields and other bodies of water to the WOTUS list, he said.

“Tributaries, anything with flow, would be included with no consideration for frequency, duration or continuity,” Butler said. “Adjacent waters to flood plains, but it doesn’t say if it’s the 200-year flood plain or the 500-year flood plain. And other waters, which means anywhere waters are connected.”

The West Virginia Farm Bureau is conducting rallies across the state to urge people to comment on the rules; to write their congressional representatives, opposing the new definition; to write letters to the editor of the local newspaper; and to talk to friends, neighbors and community groups to join the fight.

More than 100 people attended the gathering at the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds to hear the presentation, ask questions and make comments. The issue elicited emotional responses from several members of the audience.

“We’re all concerned about runoff from our fields,” Greg Butler, co-owner of Butler Farm Market, said after the meeting. “We were named conservation farmers of the year, but this makes it so hard to farm. There’s no common sense. These are ridiculous regulations.”

He said as much as 50 percent of his family-farm’s 400 acres could be affected by the new definition…

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