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Proposed changes to Clean Water Act could land ag. businesses in hot water

Lamar Isaak and his family have been successfully keeping-up their 1,700 acres of farmland which has been in the Isaak family for years.

But farming potatoes could prove to be more challenging, since the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed amendment to the Clean Water Act could potentially throw a wrench in the system for farmers across the state.

“We do not need any more EPA regulations,” Isaak said.

The agency is trying to nix the word “navigable” from the original act, which would in turn allow the EPA to have total jurisdiction over every single water source, down to every puddle and ditch on farmers’ private lands.

As the act currently stands, the EPA only has control over “navigable” resources, which means any large body of water you can navigate upon using a boat, such as the Snake River or even the various reservoirs across the state.

According to Idaho Farm Bureau’s John Thompson, this effort by the EPA is because it hopes to try and make sure sediment and rocks do not end up polluting these navigable water resources as it flows-in from these smaller ditches and puddles from local farmlands.

But, Thompson just doesn’t buy that.

“That’s not going to make the water cleaner,” Thompson said. “It is just going to add more regulations. There are ditches and ponds not connected to those waterways, so that is where the concern over private property rights comes in.”

Thompson added, if the amendment ends-up going into effect, farmers will have to obtain a permit with the EPA in order to keep-up with their common farm practices such as cleaning ditches or planting their crops.

And with 1,700 acres of land, the Isaak’s would have their work cut-out if they needed to also worry about permits.

“It would be a nightmare to try and keep-up with all of the permits we could possibly need…and you know, there’s nothing more we can do. We are doing all we can do. We have settling ponds, we put barriers in the road, we catch the water where we can. It’s unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable,” Isaak said.

Thompson said with the added costs to farmers, many of them would have to jump through hoops to just keep up, but eventually, he is afraid the expenses would end-up putting a lot of farmers out of business.

“Those costs are felt all up and down the line. If the farmer can’t find a way to pass them along, then he has to absorb them. That means, less money coming into his farm and it could also mean his farm is not profitable,” Thompson noted.

Eventually, he said this could trickle-down to the businesses who purchase these products from farmers, and suspects they will feel the cost burdens just as bad as the farmers.

Thompson said the farm bureau is putting-forth a concerted effort to give public comment back to the EPA to hopefully get rid of this proposed amendment.

The public can comment here:

The proposal came out on March 25, and is slated to take effect by the end of July.

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