Environmental Group Calls for Elimination of Ag Exemptions in Clean Water Act

By Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The Clean Water Act has fallen far short of its original goals to have 100% of waters fishable and swimmable by 1983, and a report by the Environmental Integrity Project calls for the elimination of agricultural exemptions from the CWA as part of the fix.

For years, farmers and ranchers have had many agriculture practices exempt from the CWA, essentially counting ag runoff as non-point sources of pollution.

“Congress should strengthen the Clean Water Act by closing its loophole for agricultural runoff and other ‘non-point’ sources of pollution, which are by far the largest sources of impairments in waterways across the U.S.,” the Environmental Integrity Project report said.

“Factory-style animal production has become an industry with a massive waste disposal problem and should be regulated like other large industries,” the report said.

In addition, the Environmental Integrity Project calls for changes to the law to give government agencies more power to more strongly enforce so-called “pollution diets” imposed by total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs.

The Biden administration currently is rewriting definitions of waters of the U.S., and farm and other groups have raised concerns about the possibility of agriculture losing some of its long-standing CWA exemptions.

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group of former EPA enforcement attorneys that advocate for enforcement of environmental laws.

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