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BrownfieldAgNews reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency says its proposed Waters of the U.S. rule of the Clean Water Act clarifies which waters are protected.

The proposal, however, is drawing criticism from the American Farm Bureau, which says the rule will impose unworkable regulations on the nation's farms.

In an interview with Brownfield Ag News, Nancy Stoner, EPA's acting assistant administrator for water, reacted to the Farm Bureau assertion that the rule expands regulatory reach to such land features as ditches.

"I can only say that it's wrong," Stoner responded. "It actually, again, does not protect any new types of waters, it retains all of the existing exemptions for agriculture and for every other purpose, for that matter, and it even expands some of them."

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the rule is an end run around congressional intent and U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Stoner tells Brownfield she's aware of the concerns. She says the agency is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and USDA to address the concerns.

"This is a proposal, and so it's very important that we hear from your listeners and from others so that we understand those concerns and can figure out what we need to do to address them better," she said.

Stoner says expanded exemptions will insulate many farmers from the new rule, but Stallman says the exemptions apply only to farming that has been ongoing since the 1970s, not new or expanded farms.

Comments on the new rule can be submitted until July 21.

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