WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30, 2012 – The American Farm Bureau Federation this week asked members of Congress to support H.R. 4965, a bill that would preserve existing U.S. water rights and responsibilities to the Clean Water Act. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio).

According to AFBF, H.R. 4965 does not alter the Clean Water Act, but it merely reaffirms longstanding provisions in the law. It would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from pursuing the agencies’ proposed Final Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act and from using it as a basis for regulation.

“In Farm Bureau’s view, the agencies’ proposal improperly changes the law of the land,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman in a letter to House members. “The Guidance effectively eliminates the term ‘navigable’ from the Clean Water Act. It dramatically expands the scope of federal jurisdiction under the act and virtually eliminates a central precept of the act, which reserves certain waters to the exclusive jurisdiction of the states.”

Allowing the agencies to pursue the Final Guidance raises three critical considerations: (1) whether the law permits such a major policy shift to be pursued through guidance; (2) whether the agencies are exceeding the authority granted them by Congress; and (3) the profound impact this policy change would have on the economic health of the agricultural sector, which is vital to assuring a thriving national economy that produces jobs and raises living standards for all Americans.

“The Guidance expands jurisdiction well beyond the words and intent of Congress and the limits affirmed by the Supreme Court,” continued Stallman. “While Farm Bureau would be concerned if the proposed policy were advanced through a rule-making, for EPA and the Corps to implement such a significant change to the Clean Water Act through guidance is indefensible. The issues raised by the guidance should be decided by elected officeholders on Capitol Hill. In the absence of congressional approval, the agencies should not move forward and assert federal regulatory power—especially through an informal guidance document—where Congress has not approved such a step.”