On Wednesday, members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) assembled at the statehouse in support of House File 2427, which schedules for an increase in the corn checkoff cap next marketing year at 2 cents, and in 2019 at 3 cents. With Governor Branstad’s signature, only the legislative cap was raised; it takes a farmer referendum to raise the collection rate, which remains at 1 cent.
Before the signing, EPA’s proposal was a hot topic of conversation on Tuesday; they released its almost four-hundred-page proposed rule, meant to clarify the perennial problem of which waters are and aren’t subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.
Wetlands near rivers or streams also fall under purview of the Clean Water Act, however EPA has worked with USDA and the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure exemption 53 specific conservation practices from needing a Clean Water Act permit.
Other agricultural exemptions from discharge permits, such as maintenance, but not construction of drainage ditches, remain in place. Commodity groups are still poring through the nearly four-hundred page proposal. ICGA Sustainable Program Manager Ben Gleason had not yet had a chance to read the entire document, but said some aspects remain murky.
“There is still confusion over what is covered by the Clean Water Act. Whether it’s this case by case basis on these isolated wetlands or the EPA actually saying that this is an expansion of the clean water act. Yet, now all these tributaries that are often sometimes dry are now covered. So, I don’t know how that works, but we’ll figure that out here hopefully.”
Gleason added that preserving ag exemptions along with the interpretive rule regarding conservation practices was taken as a net positive, with the assumption that farmers won’t need permits for beneficial conservation measures.