Agriculture Applauds Supreme Court Ruling on Clean Water Act Jurisdiction

Agriculture Applauds Supreme Court Ruling on Clean Water Act Jurisdiction
May 25th, 2023 | News Release

The U.S. Supreme Court today handed a huge win to landowners, including farmers, in a case involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s jurisdiction over Waters of the United States, often referred to as WOTUS. 

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) applauded the decision.

“This sensible ruling preserves protections for our nation’s valuable water resources while providing clarity to farmers and others about the process of determining federal jurisdiction over wetlands,” said NCGA President Tom Haag. “This is a great day for corn growers.”

In the decision, the court narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction by clearly rejecting the vague “significant nexus test,” upending the Biden administration’s overreaching WOTUS rule.

A 5-4 majority on the court issued an opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, that significantly narrowed the definition of adjacent wetlands, saying that to be adjacent and therefore a WOTUS, the wetland must have a continuous surface connection to a relatively permanent body of water connected to a traditional navigable water. The four-justice minority disagreed in an opinion, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, saying that a continuous surface connection test is too narrow, and overturns decades of precedent followed by both Republican and Democratic administrations.

NCGA, which has long said that EPA’s broad definition of WOTUS creates pervasive uncertainty and confusion for the agricultural community and farmers trying to manage land they own and operate, has spoken out forcefully on the issue and joined other agricultural groups in filing an amicus brief as the Supreme Court considered the case.

EPA is now expected to issue a revised WOTUS rule, since its current rule relies heavily on the significant nexus test. 

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives:

“The years of whiplash over what is or is not a water of the U.S. had brought us to a point where no one could tell their headwater from their estuary,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of NCFC. “The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory for farmers, ranchers, and private property owners across the country and starts us down a path of Clean Water Act implementation that can be sustained.”

“Water quality is a critical issue, but that doesn’t mean every puddle on the farm needs to be subject to federal jurisdiction,” Conner concluded. “NCFC and the farmer-owned cooperatives we represent remain fully committed to federal, state and local efforts to work with agriculture to protect surface water quality throughout the U.S. We hope the certainty provided by today’s decision will give us all a solid framework to work together for lasting solutions.”

National Ground Water Association:

“There is still a lot to be seen on how this ruling will impact groundwater across the country, ” said National Ground Water Association CEO Terry S. Morse.  “But it’s our hope that it will finally bring some clarity and long-term stability to what is enforced under the Clean Water Act. We all do better when there are consistent and fair rules in place, and we hope this is a step in that direction.”

Nebraska Cattlemen:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA takes a large and unnecessary regulatory burden off of the shoulders of Nebraska’s beef cattle producers. Cattlemen now have a clear and limited WOTUS rule which will protect our water resources without burdensome bureaucratic red tape. As the original conservationists, we celebrate this commonsense ruling.”

National Association of Wheat Growers:

“NAWG is pleased with the rule the Supreme Court issued today that rejected the confusing and expansive “significant nexus” test that broadened the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act,” said NAWG CEO Chandler Goule. “The Supreme Court ruling sided with a narrower definition of the Clean Water Act jurisdiction and limited the number of wetlands that would come under the regulation of the Clean Water Act.”

Nebraska Farm Bureau:

“Today is a good day for farmers, ranchers, and for private property rights. This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued their opinion on Sackett v EPA. Yet again, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must go back to the drawing board to write a new rule that protects water, but also respects the rights of states and private property owners, both foundational principles of our great nation.”

“As we’ve said time and again, Farm Bureau and the farm and ranch families we represent remain willing to help EPA craft a new rule that respects landowners, state regulatory authority, and our nation’s waters.”


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