Farmers at odds with government over proposed water rules

Northern Michigan farmers and the Michigan Farm Bureau are taking on a proposal from the federal government that they say could put some farms out of business.

Northern Michigan farmers, along with the Michigan Farm Bureau are taking on the federal government and a proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency that they say could put some farms out of business.

It all surrounds the EPA's efforts to re-define the scope of the Clean Water Act.

The act was originally passed to protect waters that ships can sail through, and over the years changes have been made to protect the water quality of those bodies of water.

â??Itâ??s something that goes way too far on a regulatory scheme,â?? said Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau Agricultural Ecology Department Manager on the new proposed rule from the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers.

It would give the act jurisdiction over almost all bodies of water with any connection to downstream waters.

â??Every single little ditch and agricultural drain and isolated wetlands and these small little features on the landscape.â??

According to the EPA the proposal doesn't protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act.

Campbell says this proposal stems from a recent study from the EPA that looked at how one drop of water ends up in a major waterway.

â??We farm by a lot of wet areas in northern Michigan in general. There's a lot of lakes, swamps, wetlands around that we farm in and it could be very detrimental to us,â?? said farmer Paul Wagner.

Farmers with water near their fields would have to get a permit from the EPA in order to spread fertilizer, adding money and time as they wait to hear back if the permit is approved.

â??To have to go through a permit process that could take we don't know how long to do this would not be a feasible way to go about it.â??

Michigan's agricultural industry is second only to the auto industry, bringing in 96 billion dollars a year.

Campbell says this proposal could put farmers out of business.

â??Something that we feel is something that's very unnecessary. I mean we've got very strong programs throughout our state that protect water quality that farmers engage in,â?? said Campbell.

According to the EPA the proposed rule would provide benefits to the public including reducing flooding and supporting hunting and fishing.

Farmers say the financial impact would also trickle down to the grocery store.

â??We're going to add more costs of doing business which is going to adjust the cost on the other end also,â?? said Wagner.

A letter from lawmakers was sent to the administrator of the EPA and the Secretary of the Army. It expresses their concerns over the proposed rules.

Congressman Dan Benishek and several other Michigan representatives have signed it.

You can send in your feedback on this issue until July 21st.