Many of the things farmers do on a daily basis to produce food and maintain their land come under strict environmental oversight.

NAWG works on a variety of environmental issues to ensure policymakers have accurate information and to advocate for laws and regulations that are appropriate for agricultural operations.

Clean Water Act

A number of Supreme Court rulings in recent years have have complicated the definition of the “navigable waters of the United States,” over which the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers have authority under the Clean Water Act.

In April 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a regulation defining waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act. Subsequently, a final regulation was issued in May 2015. NAWG expressed concern regarding both the proposed regulation and the final regulation for the expanded jurisdiction of the Act and lack of clarity provided to growers.NAWG believes the regulation will not provide clarification for growers in determining which waters on their farming operation may become jurisdictional under the regulation.

NAWG endorsed legislation to require EPA to revise the regulation and issue a new proposal. NAWG is reviewing a 2018 proposal by the EPA creating a revised Waters of the U.S. regulation.

On December 12, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) proposed a definition of “waters of the United States” that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act. The proposal replaces the EPA’s 2015 definition as created under the former Obama Administration. NAWG welcomes the new proposed rule and plans on submitting comments.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits

In January 2009, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down the first U.S. court ruling that pesticide discharge is a point source of pollution subject to additional regulation and permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The impact of this decision, made in the case of National Cotton Council of America v U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is that the EPA will almost certainly require producers to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits or some other type of permit for each and every pesticide application, even if applied within label requirements. In June, the Court ordered a two-year stay of the decision to allow time for EPA and state regulators to implement it properly, and in August, the Court rejected a request from NAWG and other agricultural organizations for a rehearing by the entire Sixth Circuit.

EPA estimates the ruling will affect approximately 365,000 pesticide applicators that perform 5.6 million pesticide applications annually.

Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule

The Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule requires regulated facilities to develop and implement plans to help prevent oil discharges from reaching navigable waters. SPCC regulations were first issued in 1974, but did not touch agriculture until 2002.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 modified the requirements of SPCC for agriculture. The requirements for agriculture were updated after the EPA released a study in June 2015, as directed by the WRRDA law in 2014.

NAWG supports increasing the exemption to up to 10,000 gallons and supports the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act. Information for farmers on SPCC compliance and the new requirement can be found below. This fact sheet explains impacts of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, as signed by the President on June 10, 2014, on the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) rule and farms.

Farmers for a Sustainable Future

NAWG is a member of the Farmers for Sustainable Future (FFASF) Coalition. FFASF represents U.S. farmers and ranchers who are committed to producing the world’s food, feed and fiber supply in a sustainable way. Farmers and ranchers continue to be stewards of the land by promoting soil health, conserving water, enhancing wildlife, efficiently using nutrients and caring for their animals.

To learn more, read FFASF’s Climate and Resiliency one pager.