Following the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) and Department of the Army's withdrawal of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule on June 27, area farmers are voicing their support for the removal regulations that they said stood as an example of federal overreach.

Following the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Department of the Army’s withdrawal of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule on June 27, area farmers are voicing their support for the removal regulations that they said stood as an example of federal overreach.

The EPA’s WOTUS rule was enacted under the 2015 Clean Water Act during President Barack Obama’s administration, expanding the definition of what to consider as bodies of water in the nation — building upon 1986/1988 definitions that included waters used for commerce, interstate waters and wetlands, industrial waters and recreational sites. The 2015 rule sought to include smaller bodies of water including isolated streams, floodplains and ditches. For local farmers and ranchers, President Donald Trump’s Feb. 28, 2017 Executive Order to rescind the WOTUS rule — and subsequent withdrawal this week — is expected to impact local farms and ranches in a positive way.

Kenny Lovelace operates a cattle farm near Palmyra with his wife. Lovelace is also a Past President and member of the National Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. He said he welcomed the change, because the 2015 definitions sought to control waters as small as dry streams that only filled with water when it rained. Lovelace said defining larger bodies of water such as rivers made sense, but the smaller areas affected farmers with too much regulation.

“It was just getting too much control of the little creeks that come up behind the farmer’s house, you might say, behind his barn,” Lovelace said.

Lovelace said that too many regulations affect farming for future generations, because the rules can make starting a farm too costly and complicated for farmers and ranchers who are just starting out. And he pointed out that families have a vested interested to be good stewards of the land and water around them — for themselves and their younger relatives.

“I think a lot of them forget that we live here and we’re raising families, so we don’t want to do anything that would be a detriment to our living as far as contamination,” Lovelace said. “We want to save the soil and everything, because we live here and want to hand it down. My granddaughter’s farming now, and she’s sixth generation, so we want to keep it going. I think they’re worried about something they oughtn’t be worried about. We’re going to take care of it, because we live here, we drink the water, we eat the food off the land — so why would we want to do anything wrong?”

Lovelace said that his granddaughter loves to farm, but he said excessive regulations could make it too expensive for her to continue. Across the state, officials echoed what Lovelace said about how the 2015 rule affected Missouri farmers, including Gov. Eric Greitens, who released a video response to the repeal decision.

“When we took office, we asked our farmers and ranchers what we could do to fight for them. One of the things we heard is that they needed our help to push back against Obama’s Waters of the U.S. regulations,” Greitens said. “Well, we took that message to Washington D.C. and the good news is they’ve heard us. They’ve heard that Obama’s Waters of the U.S. regulations are hurting family farmers.”

Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said in a statement that the organization is pleased with the formal repeal of the WOTUS rule, along with Greitens’ statement that the previous rule was too broad in scope.

“The controversial rule was a classic example of an overreach of government regulations that would have expanded regulations to essentially every Missouri body of water and stream, no matter how small,” Hurst said.

Marion County Farm Bureau President Joe Kendrick agreed, noting that regulations under the 2015 rule lacked common sense — and would have designated a small ditch on his land as navigable water, even though it is dry any time it has.

“It’s kind of a sigh of relief,” Kendrick said. “We’ve finally gotten some people in Washington who are looking out for those of us out here, so we can breathe a little easier and not always be afraid that someone is going to be on our back trying to regulate what we’re doing. Above all, we’ve got to take care of the soil, or it’s not going to take care of us.”

Attorney General Josh Hawley said in a statement that removing the 2015 regulations involved years of legal battles on behalf of Missouri’s farmers and ranchers.

“We fought this rule vigorously in court, and now it is gone. I applaud the EPA for finally putting this unconstitutional, Obama-era regulation to rest. It is time we started protecting the farmers and ranchers who feed our families — and the world,” Hawley said. “They will always have the unwavering support of my office. After eight years of unprecedented encroachment by Washington onto the jurisdictions of the states and localities, and onto the livelihood and liberty of individual Missourians, it is time for us to keep pushing back.”

For more information about the proposed new rule or the EPA’s rule making process for the Waters of the U.S. definition, please visit https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule .

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com