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BrownfieldAgNews reports:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy disputes claims from some politicians and farm groups that the proposed new Clean Water Act (CWA) rule will require farmers to obtain new permits for certain farming practices.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Wednesday, the day after the new CWA rule was released, McCarthy said that farming practices that do not require permits today won't need them when the rule becomes law.

"It's not taking away any of the agricultural exemptions," McCarthy says. "What its trying to do is provide clarity so you don't have to go and ask.

"That's what this rule does. It actually worked with the agricultural community to identify those practices that we could highlight. It even set up a really good process to expand on that, but it didn't take away a single agricultural exemption that currently exists."

But some farm-state senators remain skeptical, among them Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso.

"So what about the farmers and ranchers who use these 53 new covered practices, but don't specifically follow the Natural Resources Conservation Services' federal definition of these farming practices perfectly to a tee in the newly expanded federal waters," Barrasso asked McCarthy. "Would they need to get a new Clean Water Act permit or be penalized?

"Nobody needs to get a permit under this rule, should it go forward as proposed, that didn't need it today," McCarthy's responded.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has criticized the new rule saying it expands the federal government's CWA jurisdiction and will require cattlemen to obtain "costly and burdensome" permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout.

Barrasso joined Nebraska Republican Senator Deb Fischer in asking McCarthy to extend an announced 90-day comment period to 180 days. The public-comment period does not begin until EPA posts the rule in the federal register.

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